The first launch of an Orbital ATK Antares rocket with a new first stage engine is now planned for early October, a company official said Sept. 13.
Satellite and rocket manufacturer Orbital ATK on Aug. 10 said global commercial satellite demand is weaker than the company had expected and would be a drag on its financial results in both 2016 and 2017.
A May 31 static fire test of the new first stage of Orbital ATK’s Antares launch vehicle should clear the way for that rocket to return to flight in early July.
Satellite and rocket builder Orbital ATK on May 5 said its re-engined Antares medium-lift launch vehicle likely would make its first flight in July and would be nicely profitable for Orbital even if it wins no other customers beyond its current NASA space station resupply business.
As the first Cygnus mission launched on an Atlas rocket arrived at the International Space Station, Orbital ATK was already looking ahead to the second such mission, as well as resuming flights in 2016 of an updated version of the company’s own Antares launch vehicle.
A NASA investigation into last year’s failure of an Orbital ATK Antares launch vehicle could not identify a single technical root cause of the accident, a conclusion at odds with Orbital’s own investigation.
Aerojet Rocketdyne will pay Orbital ATK $50 million to end a dispute about the role Aerojet’s AJ-26 engine played in last year’s Antares launch failure, the propulsion provider announced Sept. 24.
Orbital ATK’s plans to resume cargo flights to the International Space Station, using both an existing launch vehicle and an upgraded version of its own Antares rocket, face risks that could delay those missions, according to a new report.
While Orbital ATK says it is on schedule to have the new version of its Antares launch vehicle ready for flight in March, the vehicle’s first launch may be delayed by other missions to the International Space Station, including a Cygnus cargo spacecraft launching on an Atlas 5.
The company also said it is on track to start launches of its Antares rocket with a new Russian engine in March.
A Virginia-owned launchpad damaged in October when Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket exploded moments after liftoff is almost fixed, but the company is at loggerheads with the state and the federal government over who should pay the last $2 million owed in repairs.
Separate investigations into two high-profile commercial launch accidents six months ago are entering their final phases and will be completed in the next few months or, in some cases, weeks.