Antares Rocket Erected at Virginia Pad for Inaugural April 17 Launch – Photo Gallery

by Ken Kremer on April 7, 2013

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1st fully integrated Antares rocket stands firmly erect at seaside Launch Pad 0-A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility during exclusive launch complex tour by Universe Today. Maiden Antares test launch is scheduled for 17 April 2013. Later operational flights are critical to resupply the ISS. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com) See Antares rollout and erection photo gallery below

1st fully integrated Antares rocket – decaled with huge American flag – stands firmly erect at seaside Launch Pad 0-A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on 6 April 2013 following night time rollout. Maiden Antares test launch is scheduled for 17 April 2013. Later operational flights are critical to resupply the ISS. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com).
See Antares rollout and erection photo gallery below

For the first time ever, the new and fully integrated commercial Antares rocket built by Orbital Sciences was rolled out to its oceanside launch pad on a rather chilly Saturday morning (April 6) and erected at the very edge of the Eastern Virginia shoreline in anticipation of its maiden launch slated for April 17.

The inaugural liftoff of the privately developed two stage rocket is set for 5 p.m. from the newly constructed launch pad 0-A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

And Universe Today was there! See my photo gallery herein.

Antares is the most powerful rocket ever to ascend near major American East Coast population centers, unlike anything before. The launch is open to the public and is generating buzz.

And this is one very cool looking rocket.

Antares rocket begins 1st ever rollout from processing hanger to NASA Wallops launch pad - beneath the Moon on 6 April 2013.  Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)

Antares rocket begins 1st ever rollout from processing hanger to NASA Wallops launch pad – beneath the Moon on 6 April 2013. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)

The maiden April 17 launch is actually a test flight dubbed the A-One Test Launch Mission.

The goal of the A-One mission is to validate that Antares is ready to launch Orbital‘s Cygnus capsule on a crucial docking demonstration and resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) as soon as this summer.

The 1 mile horizontal rollout trek of the gleaming white rocket from the NASA integration hanger to the pad on a specially designed trailer began in the dead of a frosty, windy night at 4:30 a.m. – and beneath a picturesque moon.

“We are all very happy and proud to get Antares to the pad today for the test flight,” Orbital ground operations manager Mike Brainard told Universe Today in an interview at Launch Complex 0-A.

The rocket was beautifully decaled with a huge American flag as well as the Antares, Cygnus and Orbital logos.

Raising Antares at NASA Wallops. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)

Raising Antares at NASA Wallops. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)

Antares was transported aboard the Transporter/Erector/Launcher (TEL), a multifunctional, specialized vehicle that also slowly raised the rocket to a vertical position on the launch pad a few hours later, starting at about 1 p.m. under clear blue skies.

This first ever Antares erection took about 30 minutes. The lift was postponed for several hours after arriving at the pad as Orbital personal monitored the continually gusting winds approaching the 29 knot limit and checked all pad and rocket systems to insure safety.

The TEL vehicle also serves as a support interface between the 133-foot Antares and the range of launch complex systems.

Antares transported atop aboard the Transporter/Erector/Launcher (TEL) beneath the Moon on 6 April 2013.  Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com

Antares transported atop aboard the Transporter/Erector/Launcher (TEL) beneath the Moon on 6 April 2013. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com

Now that Antares stands vertical, “We are on a clear path to a launch date of April 17, provided there are no significant weather disruptions or major vehicle check-out delays between now and then,” said Mr. Michael Pinkston, Orbitals Antares Program Manager.

Antares is a medium class rocket similar to the Delta II and SpaceX Falcon 9.

For this test flight Antares will boost a simulated version of the Cygnus carrier – known as a mass simulator – into a target orbit of 250 x 300 kilometers and inclined 51.6 degrees.

Antares rolls up the ramp to Launch Complex 0-A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on 6 April 2013. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)

Antares rolls up the ramp to Launch Complex 0-A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on 6 April 2013. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)

The Antares first stage is powered by dual liquid fueled AJ26 first stage rocket engines that generate a combined total thrust of some 680,000 lbs. The upper stage features a Castor 30 solid rocket motor with thrust vectoring. Antares can loft payloads weighing over 5000 kg to LEO.

The Antares/Cygnus system was developed by Orbital Sciences Corp under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program to replace the ISS cargo resupply capability previously tasked to NASA’s now retired Space Shuttle fleet.

Up Close with Antares beautifully decaled nose NASA Wallops Pad 0-A. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)

Up Close with Antares beautifully decaled nose at NASA Wallops Pad 0-A. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)

Orbital’s Antares/Cygnus system is similar in scope to the SpaceX Falcon 9/Dragon system. Both firms won lucrative NASA contracts to deliver approximately 20,000 kilograms of supplies and equipment to the ISS.

The goal of NASA’s COTS initiative is to achieve safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the ISS and low-Earth orbit (LEO).

Orbital will launch at least eight Antares/Cygnus resupply missions to the ISS at a cost of $1.9 Billion

The maiden Antares launch has been postponed by about 2 years due to delays in laiunch pad construction and validating the rocket and engines for flight- similar in length to the start up delays experienced by SpaceX for Falcon 9 and Dragon.

Read my prior Antares story detailing my tour of the launch complex following the successful 29 sec hot-fire engine test that cleared the path for the April 17 liftoff – here & here.

Watch for my continuing reports through liftoff of the Antares A-One Test flight.

Ken Kremer

…………….

Learn more about Antares, SpaceX, Curiosity and NASA missions at Ken’s upcoming lecture presentations:

April 20/21 : “Curiosity and the Search for Life on Mars – (in 3-D)”. Plus Orion, SpaceX, Antares, the Space Shuttle and more! NEAF Astronomy Forum, Suffern, NY

April 28: “Curiosity and the Search for Life on Mars – (in 3-D)”. Plus the Space Shuttle, SpaceX, Antares, Orion and more. Washington Crossing State Park, Titusville, NJ, 130 PM

Only a few hundred feet of beach sand and a  low sea wall separate the pad from the Atlantic Ocean and Mother Nature and potential catastrophe. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com

Only a few hundred feet of beach sand and a low sea wall separate the Wallops Island pad from the Atlantic Ocean and Mother Nature and potential catastrophe. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)

Thumbs Up for Antares ! - from NASA Wallops Media team and Space journalists.  Ken at right. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)

Thumbs Up for Antares ! – from NASA Wallops Media team and Space journalists. Ken at right. Credit: Ken Kremer (kenkremer.com)

About 

Dr. Ken Kremer is a speaker, scientist, freelance science journalist (Princeton, NJ) and photographer whose articles, space exploration images and Mars mosaics have appeared in magazines, books, websites and calanders including Astronomy Picture of the Day, NBC, BBC, SPACE.com, Spaceflight Now and the covers of Aviation Week & Space Technology, Spaceflight and the Explorers Club magazines. Ken has presented at numerous educational institutions, civic & religious organizations, museums and astronomy clubs. Ken has reported first hand from the Kennedy Space Center, Cape Canaveral and NASA Wallops on over 40 launches including 8 shuttle launches. He lectures on both Human and Robotic spaceflight - www.kenkremer.com. Follow Ken on Facebook and Twitter

Aqua4U April 7, 2013 at 9:23 PM

Go ORBITAL! GO ANTARES!

Me April 7, 2013 at 11:57 PM

The more the merrier in space for science R&D! Great to see it. Wish I had a few billion dollars. I’d go to Venus to see if there really is carbon dioxide breathing woman there. I’ll bring plenty of rebreather’s. Oh damn, forgot the pressure there is crazy. I know! A hyperbaric vacuum chamber would work! Ain’t I a damn genius.

Rob V Mackelenbergh April 8, 2013 at 9:17 AM

Well done you story !!

Torbjörn Larsson April 8, 2013 at 12:07 PM

Antares hefty build reminds of Energia, the 2nd most beautiful rocket behind Apollo V. But the image is tared by its using solids, a throwback to cold war technology.

It is remarkable that both surviving COTS projects uses high efficiency engines. Maybe this is because they both seem to concentrate on affordable solutions.

similar in length to the start up delays experienced by SpaceX for Falcon 9 and Dragon.

I’m not sure these are comparable delays. IIRC 1 year of SpaceX delays were due to external circumstances rather than programmatic, a budget cutoff caused by Congress. (Perhaps so early COTS wouldn’t look like a HLV competitor before SLS congealed to a program.)

Olaf2 April 8, 2013 at 6:26 PM

This is a sexy rocket.

Similar like Ariane 5 and Titan III.

Alexander Van Houten April 17, 2013 at 6:42 AM

Torbhorn, the NK33 engine is a close cousin to the Energia engine, your comparison is not wrong at all.

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