UPDATE: Wednesday’s test launch for Orbital Science Corporation’s Antares rocket was aborted due to the premature disconnection of a second-stage umbilical about 12 minutes before launch was scheduled. The earliest the flight can be rescheduled is Friday, April 19.
“We are still examining all of the data, but it appears that the issue is fairly straightforward,” said Frank Culbertson, Orbital’s executive vice president and mission director for the Antares test flight, in a statement released by the company. “With this being the first launch of the new system from a new launch facility we have taken prudent steps to ensure a safe and successful outcome. Today, our scrub procedures were exercised and worked as planned. We are looking forward to a successful launch on Friday.”
[end of update]
It’s been billed as “the biggest, loudest and brightest rocket ever to launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility” in Virginia, and the commercial company Orbital Sciences Corporation is ready to send their Antares rocket on its maiden test flight. Orbital is testing Antares under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, and the rocket will send a dummy module into orbit that has the same mass as Orbital’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft, as well as a few smaller satellites, testing the rocket’s capabilities.
You can watch live here via NASA TV’s Ustream. There is a press briefing at 2 pm EDT (18:00 UTC), and launch coverage starts at 4:00 pm EDT (20:00 UTC), with the launch window open between 5 and 8 pm EDT (21:00 and midnight UTC).
This will mark not only the first launch of Antares, but the first orbital launch of a liquid-fueled rocket from Wallops. If all goes well with this flight, Orbital will carry out a full flight demonstration of Antares and the Cygnus cargo delivery system to the International Space Station around mid-2013.
If you live along the Eastern Seaboard of the US, here’s great information on how you might be able to see the launch, and here’s our article with more info on the flight.