NASA commercial partner Orbital Sciences of Dulles, Va., successfully conducted an engine test of its Antares rocket Friday at the nation's newest launch pad.
The company fired dual AJ26 rocket engines for the full duration 29 seconds while the rocket was bolted down on the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) Pad-0A at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va. Known as a "hot fire" test, it demonstrated the readiness of the rocket's first stage and launch pad fueling systems to support upcoming test flights.
"This pad test is an important reminder of how strong and diverse the commercial space industry is in our nation," said Phil McAlister, director of Commercial Spaceflight Development at NASA Headquarters in Washington. "A little more than one year after the retirement of the space shuttle, we had a U.S company resupplying the International Space Station. Now, another is taking the next critical steps to launch from America's newest gateway to low-Earth Orbit. Today marks significant progress for Orbital, MARS and the NASA team."
Orbital is building and testing its new rocket and Cygnus cargo spacecraft under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. A demonstration flight of Antares and Cygnus to the space station is planned for later this year. After the successful completion of the COTS demonstration mission to the station, Orbital will begin conducting eight planned cargo resupply flights to the orbiting laboratory through NASA's $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract with the company.
Wallops, which has launched more than 16,000 rockets in its 67-year history, provided launch range support for the hot-fire test, including communications, data collection, range safety and area clearance.
NASA initiatives like COTS are helping to develop a robust U.S. commercial space transportation industry with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station and low-Earth orbit. NASA's Commercial Crew Program also is working with commercial space partners to develop capabilities to launch U.S. astronauts from American soil in the next few years.
For more information about the upcoming Orbital test flights, and links to NASA's COTS and Commercial Crew programs, visit: http://www.nasa.gov/orbital