Antares Hot Fire Test Halted in Final Seconds
Orbital Sciences Corp. reported tonight (February 13) that the hot fire test of its new Antares rocket was halted "in the final seconds of the countdown by the rocket's flight computer." Antares and its Cygnus capsule are the competitor to SpaceX's Falcon 9/Dragon combination for providing commercial cargo services to the International Space Station (ISS). The hot fire test tonight was to be the first step to a flight test of Antares later this spring.
Orbital was selected for NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program about a year-and-a-half after SpaceX. It replaced another company, RocketPlane Kistler, that failed to meet its milestones. NASA wants to have two companies providing commercial cargo services to ISS to ensure competition and therefore, hopefully, keep prices low.
SpaceX is also participating in NASA's program to facilitate a commercial crew capability to take astronauts to and from the ISS. Orbital is not part of that program.
Orbital will launch Antares from Wallops Flight Facility on the coast of Virginia, which is where the hot fire test took place. Orbital said only that the computer "detected an anomalous condition." The Antares engines are rebuilt Russian NK-33 engines that were built more than 40 years ago. Aerojet purchased the engines and is refurbishing them. Aerojet's designation for them is AJ26.
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