Wallops Island, Va. – NASA, Orbital ATK and Virginia Space unveiled the progress of repairs at Wallops Flight Facility on Thursday and showed off several Antares rockets being prepared for the program’s return to space after the October 2014 explosion.
The Antares program is preparing for a full power hot fire test in March, and a return to flight for the Antares sometime in May or June.
Officials showcased multiple Antares vehicles in the Horizontal Integration Facility where the rockets are assembled and tested. NASA Wallops and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) Pad-0A is the home port of Orbital ATK’s Antares vehicle.
“The Orbital ATK and Virginia Space teams have done a tremendous job ensuring minimal disruption in cargo deliveries to the ISS. A Cygnus is presently docked to ISS only a little over a year from the failure. The Wallops launch pad is ready for testing. This is a huge accomplishment by the teams involved,” said William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for the Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate at NASA Headquarters.
“We look forward to the stage and hot fire test next year and flights returning from Wallops in the spring. Our partners are rising to the challenges associated with human spaceflight and helping ISS to deliver on its research potential.”
The Orbital team has spent the past year recovering from the explosion as well as upgrading the Antares vehicle with new engines which will support a greater lift capacity.
“Restoring a medium-class launch capability to NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility is critical to furthering NASA and the nation’s goals in space,” said Sam Scimemi, International Space Station director at NASA Headquarters. “NASA is strongly committed to Wallops, and continuing to launch cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station from this spaceport.”
Reporters toured MARS Pad-0A and the Integration Facility which houses two flight sets of the new Antares RD-181 engines, two stage one cores, inter-stages and a payload fairing.
“We are currently working on final integration of the first upgraded Antares stage we will use for the hot fire stage test in March and are beginning integration of the first stage that will be used on the first flight for the Orbital ATK-5 mission,” said Mike Pinkston, VP and General Manager of Orbital ATK’s Antares program. “Thanks to our dedicated workforce and strong relationship with our NASA customer, Virginia Space, the FAA, and the Wallops launch range; we are in full launch preparation mode.”
At pad 0A, Dale Nash, Executive Director of Virginia Space, discussed the repairs that were completed in September including pad modifications made to support the new RD-181 engines, the completion of performance testing in early November and NASA certification of all pressure systems. Nash also talked about the ongoing preparations to support the hot fire stage testing and follow-on launch operations.
“The Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops provides an ideal location for launching to the ISS,” said Nash. “Virginia Space is proud to be part of this program providing cargo to the crews on the ISS for NASA and ready to support Antares future missions.”