Antares (rocket)

Antares (rocket)

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An artist's rendering of the Antares rocket at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport
An artist’s rendering of the Antares rocket at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport
Function Medium expendable launch system
Manufacturer Orbital Sciences
Country of origin United States
Height 40.5 m (133 ft)[1]
Diameter 3.9 m[2] (12.8 ft)
Mass ~240,000 kg[1] (530,000 lb)
Stages 2 to 3[2]
Payload to LEO 5,000 kg (11,000 lb)[2]
Associated rockets
Comparable Athena III
Delta II
Launch history
Status Development
Launch sites Pad 0A, MARS
Maiden flight Scheduled for August of 2012
Notable payloads Cygnus

Antares, known during development as Taurus II, is an expendable launch system being developed by Orbital Sciences Corporation. It is a two stage vehicle designed to launch payloads weighing up to 7,000 kg (15,000 lb) into low-Earth orbit.[3][dead link] It is scheduled to make its first flight in August 2012.[4][5]

NASA awarded to Orbital a Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract in 2008 to demonstrate delivery of cargo to the International Space Station. For these COTS missions Orbital intends to use Antares to launch its Cygnus spacecraft. In addition, Antares will compete for small-to-medium missions.[6] On Dec. 12, 2011 Orbital Sciences renamed the launch vehicle “Antares” from the previous designation of Taurus II, after the star of the same name.[7]Development

The NASA COTS award was for US$171 million; Orbital Sciences expects to invest $150 million in addition, split between $130 million for the booster and $20 million for the spacecraft.[8] As of april 2012, development costs are estimated at $ 472 million.[9]

On 10 June 2008 it was announced that the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, part of the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, would be the primary launch site for the rocket.[10] Launch pad 0A, which is the former launch pad for the failed Conestoga rocket will be modified to handle Antares.[11] A launch from Wallops would reach the International Space Station’s orbit as effectively as from Cape Canaveral, Florida, while being less crowded.[8][12] It is currently planned for the first Cygnus flight to be an unloaded demonstration; the first Cygnus flight may or may not be the first Antares flight, pending additional bookings.

On December 10, 2009 Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK) test fired their Castor 30 motor for use as the second stage of the Antares rocket.[13] In March 2010 Orbital Sciences and Aerojet completed test firings of the NK-33 engines.[14]


The first stage uses RP-1 (kerosene) and liquid oxygen (LOX) as propellants, powering two NK-33-derived engines (sold by Aerojet as AJ-26 engines). As Orbital has little experience with large liquid stages and LOX propellant, some of the Antares first stage work was contracted to Yuzhnoye SDO, designers of the Zenit series. One source claims that includes “main-stage fuel tanks and associated plumbing”.[8] The core provided by Yuzhnoye includes propellant tanks, pressurization tanks, valves, sensors, feed lines, tubing, wiring and other associated hardware.[3] Like Zenit, the Antares vehicle will have a 3.90 m (154 in) diameter. It will have a 3.9 diameter payload fairing.[2]

The second stage is a solid, the Castor 30, developed by ATK as a derivative of the Castor 120 solid stage, 293.4 kilonewtons (66,000 lbf) average (395.7 kilonewtons (89,000 lbf) maximum) thrust, utilizingelectromechanical thrust vector control.[15] The first two flights (Antares 110) will use a Castor 30A, the next two flights (Antares 120) will use an enhanced Castor 30B. The longer Castor 30XL second stage will be used on subsequent flights.[15][16]

The optional third stages planned, are the Bi-Propellant Third Stage (BTS) and a ATK Star 48-based third stage. BTS is derived from the Orbital Science’s GEOStar spacecraft bus and uses nitrogen tetroxide and hydrazine for propellant; It is intended to place payloads into a more precise orbits.[2] The Star 48-based stage uses a Star 48BV solid rocket motor and is planned to be used for higher energy orbits.[2]

This hypergolic propulsion system is planned to form the basis of the Cygnus spacecraft.[citation needed] The equipment section will likely be topped by a smaller development of the MPLM for pressurized cargo.[citation needed] Initial production of pressurized modules will take place in Italy. No reentry and return capabilities are planned. Design details are still subject to change.[8][dated info]

Scheduled launches

In April 2012, David Thompson, CEO of Orbital Sciences, stated the initial launch of Antares is expected to occur in August 2012 and the Orbital COTS Demonstration mission no sooner then October or November 2012.[17]

List only includes relatively near missions, more missions are planned than are listed below. The first digit of the version number refers to the single core first-stage, it will always be one. The second digit refers to the second-stage, 1 used for the Castor 30A, 2 for Castor 30B, and 3 for Castor 30XL. The third digit refers to the third-stage, 0 represents that no third-stage is being used, 1 represents BTS and 2 represents the Star 48-based stage.[16]

# Mission name Version Date Remarks
1 Antares Test Flight 110 August 2012[17] First Antares launch
2 Orbital Sciences COTS demo 110 October or November 2012[17] First Cygnus mission
3 Orb-1 120 Late 2012[16] First Cygnus Cargo Resupply Mission (CRS), first Antares launch to use the Castor 30B upperstage[16]
4 Orb-2 120 2013[16]
5 Orb-3 130 2013[16] First Antares launch to use Castor 30XL upperstage[16]
6 Orb-4 130 Early 2014[16] First Enhanced Cygnus mission[16]


  1. a b Kyle, Ed (2011-05-14). “Taurus 2”. Space Launch Report.
  2. a b c d e f “Antares Fact Sheet” (PDF). FS007_06L. Orbital Sciences Corporation. 2011-12. Retrieved 20111219.
  3. a b “Antares User’s Guide, Rev. 1.2” (PDF). Orbital. December 2009.
  4. ^ Orbital Sciences Corp, Antares Home Page
  5. ^ Orbital Sciences Corporation
  6. ^ Aviation Week and Space Technology, Feb. 25, 2008, p. 22
  7. ^ [1]
  8. a b c d B. Bergen, Space News, February 25, 2008, p. 12
  9. ^ “Orbital Sciences development costs increase”. April 30, 2012.
  10. ^ “Governor Kaine announces 125 new jobs for Virginia” (Press release). Commonwealth of Virginia. June 9, 2008.
  11. ^ Kennedy, Jack, Taurus-2 Launch Pad to be Ready in 18-Months at Wallops Island Spaceport, Spaceports
  12. ^ Glass, Jon W. (February 20, 2008). “Wallops up for big role with firm’s NASA contract”The Virginian-Pilot.
  13. ^ “Orbital Sciences Successfully Tests Second Stage Rocket Motor” (Press release). Orbital. December 10, 2009.
  14. ^ Clark, Stephen (March 15, 2010). “Aerojet confirms Russian engine is ready for duty”. Spaceflight Now. Retrieved 2010-03-18.
  15. a b “Antares Medium-class Launch Vehicle – brochure” (PDF). G006_08j. Orbital Sciences Corporation. 2011-12. Retrieved 2012-12-19.
  16. a b c d e f g h i Bergin, Chris (2012-02-22). “Space industry giants Orbital upbeat ahead of Antares debut”. NasaSpaceflight (not affiliated with NASA). Retrieved 29 March 2012.
  17. a b c Selding, Peter (2012-04-20). “Orbital’s Space Station Cargo Launcher Encounters Additional Delays”. spacenews.

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