The launch is anticipated to happen in July, and would be the first since the fiery disaster in 2014.
Officials conducted a static fire test of the new first stage of Orbital ATK’s Antares launch vehicle, hoping for a better result this time around than the fiery explosion that destroyed the last rocket in 2014.
The Antares first stage was held down on the pad at Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia — the site of the disaster — and fired for 30 seconds to verify the performance of the RD-181 engines and systems, according to an Orbital ATK statement.
Orbital ATK said engineers would be spending the next few days reviewing the data before the test could be called a success, although initial indications are that it was.
If so, Orbital ATK will move ahead with its plan to launch a Cygnus cargo mission to the International Space Station on an Antares rocket, which is likely to happen in about a month. It would be the first since the October 2014 failure — video of which is below — which was linked to the original AJ26 engines used on the rocket. Orbital decided to switch to RD-181 engines after the incident.
“Early indications show the upgraded propulsion system, core stage and launch complex all worked together as planned,” said Mike Pinkston, Orbital ATK General Manager and Vice President, Antares Program. “Congratulations to the combined NASA, Orbital ATK and Virginia Space team on what appears to be a successful test.”
“The successful stage test, along with the extensive testing of each new RD-181, gives us further confidence in the first stage propulsion and in moving forward to launch,” said Pinkston. “We are now focused on the OA-5 mission and launching the enhanced Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station on our upgraded, higher-performing Antares rocket.”