Antares Launch Sets Up Engine Search By Frank Morring, Jr. firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: AWIN First
September 18, 2013
Orbital Sciences Corp. has enough hardware on hand for the 10 commercial cargo missions it has contracted with NASA, and is already looking ahead to the day when it runs out of the surplus Soviet-era Russian engines it uses to power its new Antares launch vehicle.
The Dulles, Va.-based company is on the way to completing its second NASA mission with the safe launch Wednesday of its second and final demonstration mission with the Antares, this one carrying pressurized cargo to the International Space Station in the first full-up Cygnus cargo vehicle to fly.
If all goes well, and the Cygnus is able to demonstrate safe handling before reaching the ISS on Sunday morning, Orbital will be ready as early as Dec. 8-21 to begin fulfilling its eight-flight, $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Service (CRS) to deliver bulk food, clothing and equipment to the station. The mission launched Wednesday completes the company’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) spacecraft-development agreement with NASA. It carries about 700 kg. of supplies, while early CRS flights will be able to handle as much as 2,000 kg of pressurized cargo, and an enhanced Cygnus would have a 2,700-kg capability.
Frank Culbertson, Orbital executive vice president, told reporters here after the Sept. 18 launch that Aerojet has another 16 AJ-26 engines in stock beyond the 20 Orbital has under subcontract for its NASA COTS and CRS missions. Aerojet modified the surplus Russian Nk-33 engines for the Antares role, and Orbital hopes to use them to meet the launch services market originally carried by the Delta II medium-lift launch vehicle, in addition to the NASA contracts that expire in 2016.
Once the old Russian engines run out, Culbertson said, Orbital has plans to find a replacement that will enable it to continue flying Antares.
“We’re looking at what the options are, who has engines that might be compatible and what’s available and how long would it take to develop and/or order them,” Culbertson said. “So we’ve got a very active effort going on.”
That effort includes discussions with “everybody who says they make an engine,” he said. “We know that sometime after 2016 we need to start looking at other alternatives.”
Meanwhile, Orbital controllers were off to a good start on the COTS demonstration. Culbertson said the Antares placed the Cygnus in a 289-by-257-km orbit, slightly above targets. The solar arrays deployed and began providing electrical power, and all valves opened to pressurize the propulsion system that will be used to pursue the ISS, which was over the Indian Ocean at the 10:58 a.m. EDT liftoff from the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
After a series of thruster burns to raise the orbit toward the station, the controllers plan a demonstration of the Cygnus’ ability to navigate using the Global Positioning System. Culbertson said the vehicle will approach the station and back away twice to demonstrate safe handling before going into the final “R-bar” approach from directly below it. The vehicle is scheduled to hold itself autonomously at a range of 250 meters before moving in close enough for station crewmembers working in the cupola to grapple it with the robotic arm and attach it to the nadir common berthing mechanism on Node 2.
The crew will open the hatch, unload the cargo and begin filling the vehicle with trash and unneeded gear that will ride to a destructive re-entry over the South Pacific east of New Zealand after about a month at the station.
Buoyed by Antares Success, Orbital Sciences in Hot Pursuit of Commercial Launch Contract By Peter B. de Selding | Oct. 18, 2013
The Antares rocket’s success in its first two NASA-funded demonstration flights has begun to draw interest fr om commercial and non-NASA government customers, according to Orbital Sciences CEO David W. Thompson. Credit: Orbital Sciences Corp.
PARIS — Satellite and rocket hardware manufacturer Orbital Sciences on Oct. 17 said that its new Antares rocket’s success in its first two NASA-funded demonstration flights has begun to draw interest fr om commercial and non-NASA government customers.
In a conference call with investors, Orbital Chief Executive David W. Thompson said the company is already chasing one commercial customer for a one- or two-launch contract to be conducted starting in 2016.
Thompson did not identify the customer or the type of orbit, but said Orbital would be submitting a contract proposal in the coming weeks. A contract decision is likely in the first three months of 2014, he said.
“With two really good launches under our belt, things are picking up in terms of customer interest,” Thompson said of Antares, whose first two flights — one delivering a cargo module to the international space station — were conducted for NASA.
A third flight, and the second carrying the Cygnus space station freighter, is scheduled for December. It will be the first delivery on an eight-launch contract with NASA for station resupply, with the second and third of these flights to occur in the spring and autumn of 2014.
The first Cygnus demonstration flight to the station carried about 682 kilograms of payload. The second will carry double that amount, with future flights increasing their payload complement. Under the $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services, or CRS, contract, Orbital is obligated to deliver 20,000 kilograms of supplies to the station over the eight flights.
Clearly basking in the glow of the first two Antares successes, Thompson said the eight CRS launches are likely to be completed by the end of 2016. Orbital expects NASA to move out on a CRS follow-on contract sometime in 2014.
The partners in the space station — the United States, Russia, Japan, Europe and Canada — have agreed to maintain the orbital outpost until 2020 at least. They are talking about an extension to 2027 or 2028 pending an assessment of what hardware would need to be replaced, or recertified for further use beyond 2020.
Until the recent Antares successes, Orbital officials had been circumspect about Antares’ market beyond NASA. Thompson said that for the next few years the main non-NASA customer will almost certainly be other U.S. government agencies.
Thompson made no mention during the call of Orbital’s ongoing attempts to secure a supply of Antares first-stage engines, whether by restarting production of the Russian AJ-26 engines, purchased through Aerojet Rocketdyne for use on Antares, or finding an alternative.
In the past, Orbital officials have said the supply of refurbished, or refurbishable, AJ-26 engines was lim ited and that the company would need to settle on a long-term solution by mid-2014. Orbital has said it has enough of the current-generation AJ-26 engines to complete the NASA CRS contract flights. Each Antares first stage uses two AJ-26 engines.
Orbital and Aerojet Rocketdyne have not always agreed on the number of AJ-26 engines that could be made available without restarting the Russian factory wh ere their production ended years ago. Restarting that production line, Aerojet Rocketdyne officials have said, would not be a problem.
Dulles, Va.-based Orbital reported an 8.5 percent drop in revenue, to $989.9 million, for the nine months ending Sept. 30 compared with last year mainly because of lower revenue in its commercial geostationary telecommunications satellite business.
Thompson said late orders, and orders that were signed but late in taking effect in terms of revenue flow, in the commercial satellite segment hurt 2013’s revenue picture.
But it did not hurt the company’s operating profit margins, which rose to 9.2 percent from 7.5 percent over the same nine-month period.
The same Satellites and Space Systems division whose revenue dropped 24 percent in the nine months ending Sept. 30 saw its operating profit margin increase to 10.5 percent from 8.1 percent.
Do not expect a repeat of the profit performance in 2014, Thompson said. What happened in 2013 was that several challenging commercial satellite contracts moved through Orbital’s factory without a hitch, allowing the company to apply reserves it had held in the event of a hiccup to be transferred to the profit line.
Orbital has also been conservative in its profit estimates under the CRS contract. But Thompson did not disagree with investors who presumed that the CRS contract would be much more profitable for Orbital than the two-launch demonstration contract with NASA that preceded it.
Orbital Sciences plans upgrades to resupply system BY STEPHEN CLARK
Posted: January 14, 2014
DULLES, Va. -- Orbital Sciences Corp. officials say the Obama administration's endorsement of a life extension for the International Space Station will allow for technical upgrades and cost reductions for the company's commercial resupply service.
Artist's concept of an enhanced Cygnus spacecraft arriving at the International Space Station. The enhanced cargo craft, featuring circular solar arrays and a larger pressurized module, will debut in early 2015. Photo credit: Orbital Sciences Corp.
But the Virginia-based company is not waiting for a new contract to introduce improvements. Later this year, engineers will install higher-power radios and a better navigation sensor into Orbital's Cygnus cargo carrier and fly a more capable solid-fueled upper stage motor on the Antares launcher used to send supplies into orbit.
Orbital invited Spaceflight Now into the Cygnus control center at the company's Northern Virginia headquarters Sunday, offering rare behind-the-scenes access to the mission operations team as the spacecraft rendezvoused with the space station for a high-flying delivery of 2,780 pounds of experiments and supplies.
The Cygnus spacecraft's cargo load was the heaviest ever transported to the space station by one of the U.S. commercial cargo vehicles, eclipsing previous hauls by Cygnus and SpaceX's Dragon capsule.
The 16.8-foot-long cargo vessel completed a smooth three-day pursuit of the space station Sunday, holding its position 30 feet below the complex as astronaut Mike Hopkins snagged the automated spaceship with a robotic arm.
Sunday's arrival marked the first of eight cargo missions Orbital has under contract with NASA. The $1.9 billion agreement, reached by NASA and Orbital in December 2008, calls for the delivery of 40,000 pounds of supplies over the eight flights.
Orbital officials welcomed NASA's announcement Jan. 8 that the White House supports continuing to fly the space station until at least 2024.
"There's really no reason to stop operations on the space station until it completely is no longer usable, and I think it will be usable for a long time because it's very well built, very well maintained, and NASA and their engineers understand it very well," said Frank Culbertson, executive vice president and general manager for Orbital's advanced programs group.
The space station will need crew and cargo transportation services as long as it operates, giving Orbital Sciences and other companies in the business an anchor market. Orbital and SpaceX, NASA's other cargo transport provider, developed their rockets and resupply ships in a cost-sharing scheme using NASA funding and private capital.
NASA's current contracts for cargo missions with SpaceX and Orbital run through the end of 2016. To ensure no gap in service, Orbital officials say they would like to see new orders in place this year.
"We're hopeful that some time in 2014 NASA will see our spacecraft performs very well and start looking at ordering additional missions from us, so that we can start ordering hardware not only for us to manufacture internally, but for our suppliers to manufacture," said Frank DeMauro, Orbital's Cygnus program manager. "I think we've shown tremendous benefits of building ahead and buying ahead. We would like to continue to do that for follow-on missions."
NASA officials have not said how many more resupply missions they will put under contract, or whether the procurement will be an extension of the existing deals with SpaceX and Orbital or another open competition.
The space station extension to 2024 "gives us a chance to be innovative and maybe invest in some improvements on how we do this to make it more cost-effective, more efficient, quicker turnaround times, [and] go more often," Culbertson said.
File photo of an Antares rocket inside the hangar at Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Photo credit: Orbital Sciences Corp.
"We definitely will go to more of a production mode rather than a development mode on the spacecraft and the rocket," Culbertson said. "We can really get very efficient with that if we can do the same design over and over, and that's what we intend to do for the next phase of [cargo] services."
Orbital Sciences managers said they would study incremental upgrades to the spacecraft's systems and would respond to any NASA request for extra capability.
Some improvements will be introduced as soon as the next Cygnus resupply mission, named Orb-2 and tentatively scheduled for launch May 1.
DeMauro said engineers will install a U.S.-built software-defined radio on the Orb-2 mission to replace a radio from a European subcontractor. And the Orb-2 flight will see the debut of a new navigation sensor to aid the craft's approach to the space station.
The TriDAR sensor, developed and built by Ottawa-based Neptec Design Group, is a next-generation rendezvous aid tested on three space shuttle flights, including the final mission in July 2011.
The Cygnus spacecraft's existing laser navigation system measures the distance and closing rate of the spaceship by bouncing light signals off of reflectors mounted on the space station's Japanese lab module. The TriDAR system does not need reflectors, instead determining the Cygnus spacecraft's position by creating a three-dimensional thermal map of the station and comparing it with a model embedded in the system's software.
The TriDAR is also effective at greater distances from the space station, according to Neptec engineers.
Orbital will use the radio and TriDAR in backup mode on Orb-2. If they perform well, they will be used operationally on the Orb-3 resupply mission in October.
The October cargo launch will also mark the first flight of the Antares rocket's more powerful Castor 30XL upper stage motor provided by ATK. The Castor 30XL is a lengthened version of the Antares rocket's flight-proven Castor 30 motor, boosting the launcher's maximum load to the space station by more than 1,000 pounds.
Then on Orbital's first logistics mission in 2015, known as Orb-4, the company will trot out an enhanced version of the Cygnus spacecraft with a larger pressurized cargo module, a new circular solar array design, and lighter structural components and wiring harnesses, DeMauro said.
The upgrades will allow Cygnus to haul nearly three tons of supplies to the space station.
According to DeMauro, the Cygnus service module for Orb-2 is finishing up testing at the company's headquarters here and will be moved to the launch site at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore in March. The pressurized cargo module, built by Thales Alenia Space in Turin, Italy, will be shipped to Wallops aboard an Antonov An-124 transport plane in late January, he said.
Looking forward with both third-party launch vehicles and with the upgraded propulsion system on Antares, the Cygnus capacity will expand, on
average, to about 3,300 kilograms. It will vary a little bit up or down by a few hundred kilograms from that amount depending on the specific
launch vehicle we use. But, the basic enhanced Cygnus that was already planned to come online next year is the same one we plan to use now. It
will just be able to carry slightly heavier cargo loads because the launch vehicles will be more capable in terms of their payload capacity.
Contact: Barron Beneski, (703) 406-5000, email@example.com
Orbital Announces Additional Details Concerning CRS Program and Antares Launcher Go-Forward Plans
-- Next Cygnus Cargo Spacecraft to Be Launched on Atlas V Vehicle in Fall 2015 --
-- Upgraded Antares Rockets to Resume Flights from Wallops Island in Early 2016 --
(Dulles, VA 9 December 2014) – Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world’s leading space technology companies, today announced new details in its plans to resume cargo flights to the International Space Station (ISS) and to accelerate the introduction of an upgraded Antares launch vehicle. In formulating its go-forward plans, the company’s primary objective is to fulfill its commitment to NASA for ISS cargo deliveries with high levels of safety and reliability and minimum disruption to schedules. As previously announced, these plans are expected to allow Orbital to accomplish all remaining cargo deliveries under its current Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA by the end of 2016 and with no cost increase to the space agency.
The company’s go-forward plans for the CRS program and Antares launch vehicle include these major elements:
• Atlas V Launch: Orbital has contracted with United Launch Alliance for an Atlas V launch of a Cygnus cargo spacecraft from Cape Canaveral, Florida, in the fourth quarter of 2015, with an option for a second Atlas V launch in 2016 if needed. The Atlas rocket’s greater lift capacity will allow Cygnus to carry nearly 35% more cargo to the ISS than previously planned for CRS missions in 2015.
• Antares Propulsion Upgrade: The company has confirmed its ability to accelerate the introduction of a new main propulsion system for the Antares rocket and has scheduled three additional CRS launches in the first, second and fourth quarters of 2016 using the upgraded vehicle. The greater payload performance of the upgraded Antares will permit Cygnus spacecraft on each of these missions to deliver over 20% more cargo than in prior plans. With necessary supplier contracts now in place, the first new propulsion systems are expected to arrive at the Antares final assembly facility at Wallops Island, Virginia in mid-2015 to begin vehicle integration and testing.
• Wallops Launch Site Repairs: The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) has assessed the clean-up, repair and reconstruction work necessary to return the Wallops launch complex to operational status. Current plans call for repairs to be substantially completed by the fall of 2015, with recertification taking place before year end.
The flexibility of Orbital’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft to accommodate heavier cargo loads, together with the greater lift capacity of the Atlas V and upgraded Antares vehicles, will allow the company to complete all currently contracted ISS deliveries in four missions instead of the five previously planned flights over the next two years. In addition, the company’s revised approach is not expected to create any material adverse financial impacts in 2015 or future years as Orbital carries out the CRS cargo delivery and Antares propulsion upgrade programs.
Availability, DEC while under development for Atlas V, has not yet flown on it. They need to fly in 2015. Just as a reminder, the old DEC used a hydraulic thrust vector control. Centaur currently uses an ectronic control. To bring DEC back, it needs the same changes to the thrust vector control.
ULA rep: Atlas V will help Orbital ATK’s Cygnus get back in the game
Orbital's Cygnus space, despite the loss of the Orb-3 mission last year, will fly this year - atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V 401 rocket. Photo Credit: NASA
March 16th, 2015
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla — After the Oct. 29, 2014, loss of an Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares booster, the Cygnus spacecraft and the estimated 5,000 lbs (2,268 kg) of cargo it carried, one of the first questions many had asked was: “What will they do now?” The firm, based in Dulles, Virginia, was relying on its Antares launch vehicle, which had already traveled to the International Space Station (ISS) successfully three times and had flown four times overall to carry out missions to the outpost. Now the company would have to be swift on its feet and find another path to orbit.
With its booster on the sidelines as Orbital investigated the problem, it found a solution and implemented needed changes – how would it fulfill its obligations under the $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract? The answer lies in one of the most reliable rockets that is currently in service – United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V.
It was announced in Nov. 2014 that Orbital had tapped the Atlas to fly at least one mission in 2015 and the company is planning on stocking the Cygnus that will carry out this mission with 7718 lbs (3500 kg) of supplies to the space station. This is compared to 7,991 lbs (3,625 kg) that the three prior flights had successfully delivered to the orbiting laboratory.
According to Thorpe, the 401 configuration of the Atlas V has more than enough thrust to ferry a fully-laden Cygnus to orbit. Photo Credit: NASA
ULA will use the 401 configuration of the Atlas V, the lightest capacity booster fielded by the aerospace firm based in Centennial, Colorado. The launch vehicle will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41 (SLC-41) no-earlier-than (NET) the latter half of 2015.
Although the first four flights of Antares were, by and large, flawless – the fact that the rocket employed 40-year-old rocket engines was a subject of concern in aerospace circles. Originally dubbed the “NK-33” in the early 1970s by the Kuznetsov Design Bureau (in fact, the rocket’s very initials come from its chief designer – Nikolay Kuznetsov), these engines were originally intended for use on the Soviet Union’s massive N-1 Moon rocket.
The Atlas V booster has been used for all manner of missions, running the gamut from those carried out for the Department of Defense, planetary and science missions for NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and also commercial payloads – such as the Worldview-3 spacecraft launched on Aug. 13, 2014 – from Vandenberg Air Force Base located in California.
The flight of Cygnus on an Atlas V will certainly mark one of the more unique missions of 2015.
If everything goes according to plan, there will be only one flight of Cygnus on Atlas as the company is currently planning to return the Antares to flight in 2016. However, as the likely cause of the loss of Antares last October was either a turbopump failure in one of the two AJ26 rocket engines that Antares used in its first stage failing or debris within the engine itself, the company has tapped another Russian-made engine – the RD-181 – for use on Antares.
Since the loss of the Cygnus CRS Orb-3 in October of last year Orbital ATK has worked to return its Cygnus spacecraft to flight. Photo Credit: Joel Kowsky / NASA
SpaceFlight Insider works to bring you, the viewer, on the “inside” – whenever possible. As such, we sat down with ULA’s Vern Thorp to find out more about this mission – specifically about what differences there will be between a typical flight of an Atlas V, as opposed to the one that will carry Cygnus on the first part of its journey to the International Space Station.
SpaceFlight Insider:Thanks for chatting with us today Vernon. What does this mission mean for United Launch Alliance? How unique is it in terms of what your company does? Thorp: “At a very, very top level it looks different because, you know, it’ll be a cargo mission, it’ll be our first one and there are some unique aspects in terms of processing to get us ready for it. Once we dug into the details and started working with Orbital, talking to them about what it would take to fly this mission, it turns out that it looks very ‘standard’ to us.
“When we fly the typical NASA science missions, oftentimes, they have to buy not only a standard launch service but they have all kinds of mission-unique requirements that we have to accommodate. Some examples would be, say, for instance, the Pluto New Horizons and the Mars Science Lab Curiosity missions we have to put in these gigantic doors in the payload fairing (PLF) so people can mount nuclear power sources and [there are] all sorts of special air conditioning and sometimes even fluid systems requirements.”
SpaceFlight Insider:So the size of Cygnus did not cause any issues or drastic changes? Thorp: “For the Cygnus cargo module, although it’s big and it looks very different from most of the spacecraft that we fly, it’s actually very compatible with our standard launch service,” Thorpe said. “The primary technical difference that we had to accommodate – was the mechanical interface. Cygnus uses one of the standard separation systems and interface ring sets that RUAG (the manufacturer of the payload fairings that ULA utilizes) manufactures in Sweden. But it is an interface that we have not flown before, so we are developing a new payload adapter to be compatible with that wider interface ring. Aside from that? There are very few, what we call mission-unique services required. In fact, it’s pretty much on the low end compared to many of the NASA missions that we fly.”
Unlike the Atlas V that carried out the launch of NASA’s Magnetospheric Multiscale Mission on March 12, the Atlas that will be used to send the Cygnus CRS Orb-4 to the ISS will not utilize any solid rocket motors. Photo Credit: Mike Howard / SpaceFlight Insider
SpaceFlight Insider:Are there any difficulties in sending Cygnus to the ISS? Thorp: “For this mission, we will be flying to low-Earth orbit and, in terms of our experience base, we’ve flown a lot of missions to low-Earth orbit, we fly them frequently, but we usually fly them from Vandenberg. Many of the NASA science missions, including the SMAP mission that we recently launched on a Delta II, went into a low-Earth orbit; I think it was a 370 nautical mile, almost circular orbit, and we do that a lot out of Vandenberg,” Thorpe said. “So this will be a bit different in that we are flying out of the Cape. Launches that we conduct from the Cape are usually headed to a geosynchronous transfer orbit or, sometimes, we take them all the way out to GEO or, for the NASA interplanetary missions, we take them to [an] escape [trajectory]. So, this will be the first time in a long time, the first time in my experience certainly, that we have flown a low-Earth orbit mission out of Cape Canaveral. Obviously, that is what is required to place Cygnus in an orbit that will allow it to travel to the International Space Station.”
SpaceFlight Insider:What will Atlas/Centaur do in terms of getting Cygnus’ cargo to the ISS? Thorp: “What we will do is take the cargo module to a little bit below the space station orbit and then after we separate them (from Atlas’ Centaur upper stage) they will do some additional maneuvering to properly phase with the station and, eventually, get up to their exact orbit.”
SpaceFlight Insider:The outward appearance of Cygnus lends to the impression that the 401 configuration of Atlas might not have the upmass capability required for such a flight; obviously, this is an inaccurate assessment? Thorp: “We have plenty of performance on the 401 configuration of the Atlas V to be able to do this mission. You know, if you compare the performance level of the 401 to the Antares that they were using when they launch out of Wallops, Atlas actually has more capability – it’s a bigger vehicle. So, even though we are launching out of a different location, we have plenty of performance to match what Orbital’s Antares is able to do; in fact, we’re able to offer a little more performance.
“One of the things that Orbital is going to do is to investigate how they can take advantage of that extra capability and maybe load a little extra cargo on board. So the goal, and it is certainly technically feasible, is to have significantly greater amount of cargo when they fly on top of an Atlas, to help them meet their overall commitment to NASA. In fact, I think when Orbital put out their first press release on this last year, they even said that they should with one or two Atlas launches – they should be able to meet their commitment on total cargo taken to the station with one less launch than they had originally envisioned.”
SpaceFlight Insider:How many flights does Orbital currently have with ULA? Thorp: “What we have right now is the capability to offer them a couple of rides. One this year and one next year, if they need it. What Orbital will do is, they will assess… their ability to get Antares up and operational and – if they conclude that they can do that in a timely manner and go be able to meet all of their requirements with just a single Atlas launch – there are provisions within the contract that allow them to do that. If they decide that they want the second Atlas launch? There are provisions within the contract that accommodate that as well. I think the way that they characterized it in their press releases was that they got one launch with an option for one more and that’s a fair way to categorize it.
“The first launch will be late this year, with a second one possible – if they choose to go forward with it – would be in 2016. They are trying to maintain some flexibility to be able to deal with whatever they find as they try to get Antares back on line.”
The launch of Cygnus CRS Orb-4 is currently slated to take place in the fourth quarter of this year. Photo Credit: Mike Deep / SpaceFlight Insider
SpaceFlight Insider:We were surprised that ULA tapped the four instead of the five meter fairing to carry out this mission. Thorp: “Keep in mind that we have three different lengths of that four-meter fairing and Cygnus definitely pushed us to the longest version. So, for our four meter fairing, we have three different configurations; the standard one, we call the ‘LPF’ – that acronym goes back into ancient history is used to stand for ‘large payload fairing’ that was used back to when we were flying the 11 foot diameter as well as the 14 foot diameter. That was a standard size; then, in the mid-90s, to accommodate the EOS-Terra mission for NASA which we launched in 1999, we actually implemented a three-foot stretch to the cylindrical section of the fairing and we called that our ‘EPF’ or extended payload fairing.
“There was another mission, one I believe for the DoD (Department of Defense) that required even more volume and they inserted another three foot plug. There’s like a three-foot barrel section, if you will. We added one to the EPF and then we added another one, which created our longest version, which we called the ‘XEPF’ and that’s like the extra-long payload fairing. That third version, that longest version that we have, the Cygnus configuration will… absolutely require that. It is a tight fit – definitely. You know, we’ve got a static envelope that, if a payload stays within that envelope, then, once you account for all of the vibration movement that happens during flight, you ought to be okay and one of the first things we did when we began working with Orbital was to verify that it could fit in that XEPF, and it’s a tight fit – but it does.”
SpaceFlight Insider:Vern, the big question – when will we see this launch? Thorp: “We’re notionally out in the fourth quarter of this year and I don’t know if I can talk about specific dates, it is… the only thing that is constant about launch schedules is that they change all the time. But we’re looking at the middle of the fourth quarter right now and we’re protecting the ability to go earlier if we need to, so we are prepared to launch anytime in the fourth quarter of this year.
“The actual date that we pick will depend on how the other launches move around and it will also depend on the arriving and departing vehicle schedule up at the space station, because it’s obvious that we have to coordinate with that and I suspect that the schedule with the folks down at Johnson Space Center manage all of the activities at the station and when they can accommodate an arriving vehicle – that will probably be one of the primary determinations of what the launch date is when we get there and I’m guessing we’ll have a really good handle on that six months in advance.”
SpaceFlight Insider:Vern, thanks for taking the time out of your busy schedule to talk with us today. Thorp: “My pleasure!”
Thorpe stated that, by and large, launching Cygnus to the ISS should pose little problem for ULA. Photo Credit: NASA
The service module for Orbital ATK’s next Cygnus cargo craft will be shipped to the launch site at Cape Canaveral fr om Virginia later this month. It features upgrades such as fan-shaped solar arrays and a lengthened cargo module. Credit: Orbital ATK.
Orbital ATK plans to launch its next two commercial resupply missions to the International Space Station on Atlas 5 rockets, grabbing a launch slot in March after a next-generation U.S. weather satellite was delayed, industry officials said.
The decision also gives engineers readying Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket, which is being outfitted with a new type of engine, some extra breathing room in their test sequence at the Antares launch base at Wallops Island, Virginia, said Frank Culbertson, president of the company’s space systems group.
The next two Cygnus flights, tentatively set for Dec. 3 and March 10, will fly from Cape Canaveral on United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rockets. Orbital ATK signed contracts for two Atlas 5 flights — using the company’s own funds — to continue flying cargo flights to the space station after an Antares launch failure in October 2014.
“We worked out a very good arrangement with ULA to fly the Cygnus twice, once on Dec. 3 coming up and once next March, and then we’ll pick up with flights out of Wallops next May approximately,” Culbertson said Wednesday at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight in Las Cruces, New Mexico.
Orbital ATK announced in August the purchase of a second Atlas 5 launch for the company’s Cygnus supply freighter, executing a contract option from a deal for the the first Atlas 5/Cygnus flight signed weeks after the company’s Antares booster crashed shortly after launch in October 2014.
Officials in August said the Atlas 5 mission could fly before or after the Antares booster’s return to flight, declining to identify a launch date.
File photo of an Atlas 5 rocket launch. The Cygnus missions will fly on the Atlas 5-401 variant with a four-meter payload fairing and no solid rocket boosters. Credit: NASA/Sandra Joseph and Tony Gray
A launch slot in the Atlas manifest originally assigned to NOAA’s new GOES-R weather satellite will now go to Orbital ATK’s Cygnus supply ship. Managers delayed the launch of the meteorological observatory from March to late 2016 after the weather satellite program encountered schedule slips, according to a NOAA spokesperson.
“An opportunity came up wh ere it looked like there was going to be a launch availability, and we looked at what we had going on, and the push to get Antares ready,” Culbertson told Spaceflight Now. “And then we talked to NASA about how often would they really like cargo delivered, and we just decided that made a combination to go ahead and lock in that option and go ahead and launch (in March).”
The Dec. 3 flight, known as OA-4, could move forward one day if the rocket and spacecraft are ready in time, Culbertson said. One more Atlas 5 flight from Cape Canaveral is due for Oct. 30 with a GPS navigation satellite, then Cygnus is next in line.
The Italian-built cargo module for the December launch is being prepared for flight at Astrotech’s commercial clean room near Cape Canaveral. The U.S.-manufactured Cygnus power and propulsion module will be trucked from Orbital ATK’s Dulles, Virginia, headquarters to Florida next week, officials said.
The follow-up flight in March is designated OA-6, while the Antares return-to-flight mission is called OA-5. Officials decided to keep the OA-5 name with the Antares mission, according to Culbertson, a former shuttle and station astronaut.
Orbital ATK has a multibillion-dollar contract with NASA to ferry supplies to the space station over 10 flights through 2018, including the failed mission last year, which was the third in the sequence.
The October 2014 rocket failure, which Orbital ATK blamed on one of the first stage’s AJ26 engines, grounded the Antares launcher. The company suspended Antares flights after the mishap, and accelerated an already-planned replacement of the troubled AJ26 engine with newly-built RD-181 engines.
Both powerplants are made in Russia, but the AJ26 engines — supplied by U.S.-based Aerojet Rocketdyne — were manufactured for the Soviet-era N1 moon rocket program in the 1970s. The RD-181 engines from NPO Energomash are based on a modern design, with components and heritage from the RD-180 engine used on ULA’s Atlas 5.
Culbertson said the Antares team at Wallops has integrated the first two RD-181 engines with a first stage booster in the rocket’s hangar. Another two RD-181 engines have been delivered to the United States for a subsequent Antares mission, he said.
The decision to launch back-to-back Cygnus spacecraft on Atlas 5s “took a little bit of pressure off the team at Wallops to get through their testing,” Culbertson said. “They’re still on track to make a March date, but now we have a little margin.”
The Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority, which owns the Antares launch facility on NASA property at Wallops, announced Sept. 30 the completion of repairs to the launch pad from damage sustained in last year’s failure.
Culbertson said the launch pad will now be tested to ensure it is ready for a hotfire test of the Antares booster early next year.
The RD-181 engines burn the same kerosene and liquid oxygen propellant mixture as the AJ26 powerplants previously flown on Antares, but the new engines do not require “super-chilled” cryogenic liquid oxygen.
The oxidizer is still stored at about minus 300 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 184 degrees Celsius), but it is a few degrees warmer than the liquid oxygen conditioned for consumption by the AJ26.
“It’s relieved some requirements on the plumbing and temperature control on the LOX side,” Culbertson said in an interview. “LOX is still pretty darn cold, but no, it doesn’t have to be super-chilled.”
Email the author. Follow Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.
Следующие два пуска, ориентировочно 3 декабря и 10 марта, будут на Атлас-5. NOAA отодвигает пуск метеопуска GOES-R на конец 2016 и пуск в марте отдают Орбитал.
Уоллопс к РД-181 еще не готов, поэтому мартовский пуск на Атласе позволит выиграть немного времени.
Калбертсон, сказал, что для РД-181 не нужен супер-охлажденный ЖК, в отличии от AJ-26.
а я думал, что SLS выведет всю конструкцию разом....
В статье по ссылке
Frank Culbertson, former NASA astronaut and current President of the Orbital ATK’s Space Systems Group, advocated for the placement of a permanently crewed four-person cislunar habitat (in lunar orbit) by no later than 2020.
According to Orbital ATK, the habitat concept involves pre-positioning a Cygnus-derived module in lunar orbit using a commercial launch vehicle in 2020.
Такая себе микростанция из Сигнусов. Дешево и сердито. И Ориону будет куда летать.