Orbital Sets August/September for Antares Test Flight to ISS
Orbital Sciences Corporation announced today that it is targeting the August/September time frame for its next test flight of the Antares rocket as part of NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. The test flight will take a Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS).
That is a slip of about a month from the previously announced late June/early July schedule to allow the company time to replace one of the rocket's AJ-26 engines. Then it must wait its turn to visit the ISS. A Japanese HTV flight is already scheduled for August and if it goes as planned, Antares/Cygnus will have to wait until September. If HTV is delayed, however, Orbital said it would be ready in August. Like Cygnus, HTV is an automated cargo spacecraft.
Orbital said detailed analysis of data from the first Antares test flight on April 21 confirmed that "the inaugural ... flight really was as good as it looked." However, the company is exchanging one of the AJ26 engines on the next Antares rocket's first stage for one that "is already tested in order to further inspect and confirm a seal is functioning properly."
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