WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. – Dulles-based Orbital Sciences successfully conducted an engine test of its Antares rocket Friday night at NASA’s Wallops Island.
The company fired dual AJ26 rocket engines for approximately 30 seconds while the first stage of Orbital’s Antares rocket was held down on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) Pad-0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. The test demonstrated the readiness of the rocket’s first stage and launch pad fueling systems to support upcoming test flights.
“This pad test is an important reminder of how strong and diverse the commercial space industry is in our nation,” said Phil McAlister, director of Commercial Spaceflight Development at NASA Headquarters in Washington. “A little more than one year after the retirement of the space shuttle, we had a U.S company resupplying the space station, and another is now taking the next critical steps to launch from America’s newest gateway to low-Earth Orbit. Today marks significant progress for Orbital, MARS and the NASA team.”
Orbital is building and testing its new rocket and Cygnus cargo spacecraft under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. A demonstration flight of Antares and Cygnus to the space station is planned for later this year. Following the successful completion of the COTS demonstration mission to the station, Orbital will begin conducting eight planed cargo resupply flights to the orbiting laboratory through NASA’s $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract with the company.
Wallops, which has launched more than 16,000 rockets in its 67-year history, provided launch range support for the hot fire test, including communications, data collection, range safety and area clearance.