Antares Rocket On Fast Track For NASA Launches

By  //  April 7, 2013

Medium-Class Launch System

BREVARD COUNTY • CAPE CANVERAL, FLORIDA –  Orbital Sciences Corporation has  successfully completed contract negotiations with the NASA to “on-ramp” its Antares medium-class launch vehicle onto the NASA Launch Services-II (NLS-II) program.

The Antares rocket is shown while under assembly by Orbital Sciences Corporation workers. (Image courtesy Orbital Sciences Corp.)

The NLS program is a contracting mechanism that allows NASA to procure qualified launch vehicles that have completed stringent technical and pricing reviews.

The Antares rocket joins other Orbital launch vehicles, as well as those from other launch services providers, on the NLS program.

Under the NLS program and other contracts, Orbital rockets have carried out 27 successful missions for NASA since 1996, including the recent successful launch of Orbital’s small-class Pegasus rocket, which carried the company-built Nuclear Spectroscopic Telescope Array (NuSTAR) satellite into orbit in June.

“The on-ramping of the Antares rocket to the NLS program is an important step in broadening the launch manifest beyond the cargo logistics missions to the ISS,” said Ron Grabe, Orbital’s Executive Vice President and General Manager of its Launch Systems Group. “The NLS program has served as an effective way for NASA to procure the appropriately sized and priced launch vehicles, which have had mutual benefits to NASA and Orbital. We anticipate providing reliable and affordable launch services to NASA with America’s newest medium-class launch vehicle.”

Orbital is finalizing the development and ground testing of the Antares rocket and is scheduled to conduct two launches before the end of the year under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services demonstration program with NASA.

In addition, Orbital will launch eight operational cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station using Antares vehicles through 2016 under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract.

The Antares medium-class launch system will provide a significant increase in the payload launch capability that Orbital can provide to NASA for its missions. The Antares rocket will be able to launch up to 13,000 lbs. into low-Earth orbit, as well as lighter-weight payloads into higher-energy orbits.