Statement on Antares Slip to October 17, 2016

Today’s launch of Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket is postponed  24 hours  due to a ground support equipment (GSE) cable that did not perform as expected during the pre-launch check out. We have spares on hand and rework procedures are in process. The Antares and Cygnus teams are not currently working any technical issues with the rocket or the spacecraft.

The launch is now scheduled for October 17 at 7:40 p.m. EDT.

Meet the New Engines of the Antares Rocket

For the Antares Return to Flight, Orbital ATK will rely on the Energomash RD-181 rocket motor. It is an all-new engine based on other successful liquid rocket engines Energomash designed and produced. The engines use an oxygen-rich staged combustion cycle that can be throttled, and has a variable mixture ratio for controlling relative flow rates of oxidizer and fuel.

illustration of rocket engine
The Energomash RD-181 is an all new engine based on successful models.

The Antares second stage is powered by a CASTOR 30XL solid rocket motor produced and tested at Orbital ATK facilities in Utah. The CASTOR 30XL is based on the CASTOR 120, used in more than a dozen missions. The OA-5 mission will be the first use of this motor, allowing Antares to significantly increase its payload capability.

text and picture of rocket suspended above people
The CASTOR 30XL solid rocket motor will help boost Cygnus payload capacity.

The Antares 230 rocket for this mission is a two-stage launch vehicle consisting of a liquid-fueled Liquid Oxygen/Refined Petroleum (LOX/RP) first stage powered by two Energomash RD-181s that will burn about 209 seconds. Antares employs a 9.9 m (32.5 ft.) long fairing to protect Cygnus as Antares accelerates through Earth’s atmosphere. It will separate at 250 seconds into flight, after which the second stage will burn about 163 seconds. The Cygnus cargo capsule will reach its initial orbit about 9 minutes after launch.

The Alan G. “Dex” Poindexter Mission

astronaut in orange suit with helmet
Alan Poindexter
Credit: NASA

Orbital ATK is proud to name the OA-5 Cygnus Cargo Delivery Spacecraft after former astronaut and Naval Aviator Captain Alan Poindexter. Poindexter is the only other fallen astronaut, after Rick Husband, to have been directly involved with the construction of the International Space Station.

Poindexter was born in Pasadena, California, but considered Rockville, Maryland, his hometown. Poindexter graduated from the Georgia Institute of Technology with a bachelor of Aerospace Engineering in 1986. He received a master of science in Aeronautical Engineering from the Naval Postgraduate School in 1995.

Before joining NASA, Poindexter served in the United States Navy as an aviator and test
pilot for 12 years, including assignments at the Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Maryland, and Oceana, Virginia. During his Desert Storm deployment, he flew combat missions with current Orbital ATK Vice President Kent Rominger. Throughout his Navy career, he logged 4,000 hours in more than 30 types of aircraft and completed more than 450 carrier landings. Poindexter was selected for NASA’s astronaut program in June 1998 and flew on two shuttle missions. He was pilot on STS-122, which delivered flight engineer and now Orbital ATK Senior Director Daniel Tani back to earth from the ISS, and he served as commander on STS-131. During his career at NASA, Poindexter logged more than 669 hours in space. He retired from NASA in December 2010.

Poindexter passed away July 1, 2012, and is survived by his wife, Lisa, and their two sons, Zach and Samuel.

What’s On Board?

2015-3118On the OA-5 mission, Cygnus will carry supplies and equipment to the International Space Station, as well as science payloads. The total mass of the cargo is approximately 2,425 kg (5,346 lb.), which includes 56 cargo bags of multiple sizes.


  •  Spacecraft Fire Experiment-II (Saffire-II)
  •  Fast Neuron Spectrometer
  •  ACM and Experiment Tray
  •  SLMMD


  • ISS Experiment Hardware
  • EVA Equipment– EMU Repair Kit– EVA Supplies
  • Emergency Equipment
  • Photo/TV and Computer Resources– Computer – iPad Air 2
    – Laptop – T61P and Connectors – Camera – Nikon D4
  • ISS Hardware and Spare ORUs – Cupola Scratch Panes
    – Water ORU
  • Food, Crew Supplies and Crew Provisions
  • Flight Crew Equipment
  • Cargo Environment SensorsAdditional payload details can be found at

The Saffire-II experiment will start a controlled fire on the Cygnus capsule after it departs the station to observe and measure how the fire behaves in micro-gravity.

“One of the least understood risks in space is how a fire starts, how it propagates, how you will detect the fire and how you put it out,” said Jintendra Joshi, Saffire technology integration lead for the Advanced Exploration Systems Division at NASA Headquarters.

The first Saffire experiment showed slower than expected spread of fire in a convective air flow environment in the experiment capsule, Joshi said. Further exploration “will help us make space travel safer,” he said.

Future experiments will try burning in different conditions, then investigate strategies for putting fires out.

The Cool Flames experiment will investigate why some combustible materials seem to burn at a lower-than-expected temperature in micro-gravity. “In certain cases with certain fuels something unexpected happens that can’t be replicated on the ground,” said Jesse Robins of NASA’s Glenn Research Center.

What you see, he said, is after an initial hot burn the visible flame extinquishes but the fuel droplet size diminishes at a faster rate than evaporation would suggest. Sometimes the fuel can re-ignite, he said, “like a trick birthday candle.”

Throwback Timelapse: Putting It All Together

Antares is on the launchpad now, but you don’t often get to see all the pieces coming together. Patrick Black set up this time-lapse shot inside the Horizontal Integration Facility next to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport several days ago.

You can see the rocket being prepped, the fairing put into a standby location and the coverings come off the Cygnus cargo capsule before it is integrated onto the rocket body. If you look closely you’ll also notice the “duck’s legs” paddling furiously as the people making it happen zip around seemingly at super speed.


L-1: Making Space Flight Look Peaceful

After a successful rollout of the Antares rocket Friday and installation on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A, preparations continue for a Sunday night launch.

NASA photographer Bill Ingalls caught this amazing image of Antares and the setting moon

rocket on the pad with orange moon behind
The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, is seen on launch Pad-0A as the moon sets, predawn, Saturday, Oct. 15, 2016 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
Photo Credit: (NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station will deliver more than 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew.

Antares Rocket Raised on the Pad

The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, was raised into the vertical position on launch Pad-0A, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
rocket at 45 degree tilt near towers.
The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, is raised to the vertical position
Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Orbital ATK’s sixth contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station will deliver over 5,100 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew.
upright rocket on pad.
The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, stands on launch Pad-0A, Friday, Oct. 14, 2016 at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
Photo Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls
The International Space Station-bound Antares is currently scheduled for launch no earlier than Sunday, Oct. 16, at 8:03 p.m. EDT. The Cygnus cargo capsule is packed with supplies and science for the space station.
These images, along with others, are also available on Flickr:

Antares Integration Continues at Wallops


rocket and payload in fairing in warehouse
Credit: NASA’s Wallops Space Flight Center

Integration of the Orbital ATK Antares launch vehicle continues in the NASA Horizontal Integration Facility at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia for its flight to the International Space Station.

The Antares OA-5 launch vehicle is seen on the right.  The Cygnus spacecraft is on the left as crews prepare it for mating with the Antares vehicle.  Cygnus will carry approximately 5,100 pounds of cargo, including crew supplies and vehicle hardware, to the orbiting laboratory to support dozens of science and research investigations.

The Antares is schedule to launch at 9:13 p.m. EDT, Thursday, Oct. 13 from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s pad 0A at Wallops.  Backup launch days run through Oct. 19 but additional days could be added if needed. The launch is expected to be visible from the entire east coast, weather permitting.

Rollout of the vehicle from the integration facility to the launch pad is scheduled for the afternoon of Oct. 11.

Orbital ATK Cygnus Spacecraft Preps for Launch

Looking into Cygnus, with cargo stowed
Photo credit: Orbital ATK
Empty Cygnus spacecraft with covering
Photo credit: NASA/P. Black

The Orbital ATK Cygnus spacecraft undergoes preparations in the Horizontal Integration Facility at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility for an Oct. 13 launch on the company’s Antares rocket.

technicians with large brassy ring in foreground
Photo credit: NASA/P. Black

Spacecraft and launch vehicle teams are working to prepare the Cygnus for the final loading of cargo bound for the International Space Station and mating the spacecraft to the Antares launch vehicle. This will be NASA commercial cargo provider Orbital ATK’s sixth mission to the International Space Station.

Launch time will be 9:13 p.m. EDT on Oct. 13. Live launch coverage will begin at 8:15 p.m. on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

NASA TV also will air two prelaunch broadcasts Wednesday, Oct. 12. At 1 p.m., scientists and researchers will discuss some of the investigations to be delivered to the station, and at 3 p.m. mission managers will provide an overview and status of launch operations. The briefings also will be streamed live on the agency’s website.

Cygnus is loaded with supplies for the crew along with dozens of experiments, including studies on fire in space, the effect of lighting on sleep and daily rhythms, collection of health-related data, and a new way to measure neutrons.

How to View the CRS-3 Launch

NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility and Virginia’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport are set to support the launch of Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket at 6:45 p.m. EDT, Oct. 27.

The Antares rocket will carry Orbital’s Cygnus cargo spacecraft, loaded with some 5,000 pounds of supplies and experiments, to the International Space Station. CRS-3 (short for “Commercial Resupply Services”) will be the fourth Cygnus flight, including a demonstration flight in 2013, and the first night launch of an Antares rocket.

Public viewing of the launch will be available at the NASA Visitor Center at Wallops, as well as at the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge and Assateague Island National Seashore. (Wallops visitors are reminded that alcohol and pets are not allowed on Visitor Center grounds.) The Eastern Shore of Virginia Tourism Commission has additional recommendations for local viewing sites.

The launch may be visible, weather permitting, to residents throughout the mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions of the United States.

Orb-3 Launch Visibility Map
The Antares launch scheduled Oct. 27 will be visible to residents in the mid-Atlantic, weather permitting. Credit: NASA/Wallops Mission Planning Lab
trajectory over view of harbor
What the Antares launch will look like from Fells Point in Baltimore, MD. Credit: Orbital Sciences Corp.
view of trajectory over tidal basin
Viewing the launch across the tidal basin from the MLK Jr. Memorial in Washington, D.C. Credit: Orbital Sciences Corp.
trajectory over the upper west side.
Viewing from River Road in North Bergen, New Jersey, looking south. Credit: Orbital Sciences Corp.

Additional viewing maps from Orbital Sciences Corp. are available here.

Launch coverage on NASA TV will begin at 5:45 p.m. EDT on Monday, Oct. 27.

› More information and TV coverage details
› NASA’s Orbital website