Tuesday, April 16, 2013

The Orbital Antares Pre-Game Show

Click the arrow to watch the NASA press conference with Orbital Sciences on YouTube.

Almost a year after SpaceX flew its demonstration flight to the International Space Station, Orbital Sciences will attempt on April 17 to launch a test flight of its Antares rocket with a dummy version of its Cygnus cargo module.

Tomorrow's launch attempt will not occur in the Space Coast, but at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Wallops is close to the Orbital Sciences corporate headquarters in Dulles, Virginia.

Orbital has been the step-child to SpaceX in NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program. SpaceX and Rocketplane-Kistler were issued the first two COTS contracts in 2006, but the agreement with RpK was terminated when they could not meet assigned milestones. Orbital replaced RpK in the COTS program in 2008.

If the Antares test flight is successful, it's anticipated that Orbital will fly a Cygnus demonstration flight to the International Space Station sometime this summer.

The weather forecast as of this writing is only a 45% chance of favorable conditions. The three-hour launch window opens at 5:00 PM EDT.

UPDATE April 18, 2013 7:00 AM EDT — Orbital's first attempt was scrubbed yesterday when an Ethernet cable came loose from the second stage twelve minutes before the launch Anyone who's lost connection to the Internet can appreciate that.

They'll try again on April 19, but the weather forecast is gloomy.

UPDATE April 18, 2013 8:15 PM EDTOrbital posted on its web site late today that they have surrendered to the weather gods, and postponed the next launch attempt to April 20.

Orbital has determined that the next launch attempt for the new Antares rocket will be no earlier than Saturday, April 20, at 5:00 p.m. The mission management team met this afternoon to evaluate weather forecasts and optimum crew work schedules to provide two back-to-back opportunities for a launch attempt.

Weather conditions deteriorate on Friday, April 19, but improve significantly over the next two days increasing the chances for acceptable conditions at launch time. This also allows the Antares launch team a day of rest before back-to-back opportunities on Saturday, April 20 and Sunday, April 21.

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