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Orbital Scrubs Rocket Launch Minutes Before Liftoff

by Brendan McGarry on April 17, 2013

Orbital Sciences Corp. scrubbed the first attempted launch of its new Antares rocket minutes before liftoff after a hose prematurely detached from the booster.

The April 17 liftoff from Wallops Island, Virginia, was set for 5 p.m. local time. It was aborted with slightly more than 10 minutes left in the countdown due to a “premature separation of an umbilical connection,” according to a brief statement from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration. 

The two-stage, medium-lift rocket — the Dulles, Virginia-based company’s newest and biggest — is flying its maiden flight as part of a test mission for NASA.

After retiring its shuttle fleet in 2011, the agency has turned to the private sector and companies such as Orbital and Space Exploration Technologies Corp., known as SpaceX and headed by billionaire Elon Musk, to resupply the International Space Station. Orbital has a $1.9 billion contract with the agency for at least eight cargo missions to the orbital outpost.

The rocket may eventually be a contender for such military programs as the Air Force’s Orbital/Suborbital Program-3, known as OSP-3, and Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle, known as EELV.

The rocket for its first stage uses two liquid-fuel AJ26 engines, made by Aerojet, part of California-based GenCorp Inc. They’re modified versions of the NK-33s built in Russia more than four decades ago for its moon program, which was later canceled. Aerojet bought about 40 NK-33 engines in the mid-1990s and, under a contract with Orbital, modified them specifically for Antares, according to Aerojet. The second-stage of the rocket uses a solid-fuel engine made by Arlington, Virginia-based Alliant Techsystems Inc.

The launch has been rescheduled for 5 p.m. April 20, at the earliest, according to NASA. A previously scheduled liftoff on April 19 was canceled due to the weather forecast. A back-up date is set for April 21.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

USS ENTERPRISE April 17, 2013 at 6:55 pm

Hm. Could be worse. The hose could have gone during takeoff. Though all this talk about using an EELV leaves me with the question: What happened to Space X? Last I heard, they weren't doing bad, in fact, they were having successes.

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Ben April 17, 2013 at 7:11 pm

For whatever reason, DT likes to ignore SpaceX. In short: they're way ahead of the pack.

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Ricardo April 17, 2013 at 7:32 pm

Dolt, the hose is supposed to disconnect at the moment of liftoff. Several contractors are providing launch services to NASA, including Orbital and Space-X, it's called a free market. Go home to your mommy.

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USS ENTERPRISE April 17, 2013 at 7:43 pm

Nice language. Maybe you need to read the article again. That is, that a hose pump that didn't need to come off at that moment did just that. Free market? Yes, yes it. But DT isn't covering the leader of these free marketeers, that is, Space X.

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oblatt1 April 18, 2013 at 3:47 am

if captain kirk was as a hamster this what he would sound like

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NavyGuy2007 April 18, 2013 at 2:27 pm

Orbital is just here to fill in a hole left when another company failed to meat design goals in the earlier stages of the COTS program. SpaceX/Falcon9 is already delevering cargo, AND doing it cheeper then the Orbital/Antares stack has been quoted.

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Host Guy April 18, 2013 at 3:03 pm

Whoops! Heh heh… forgot to screw that one on all the way! Sorry guys!

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USS ENTERPRISE April 21, 2013 at 1:07 pm

Van Braun is the very reason why the US was in the space race, so don't just dismiss him like that. Also, I agree that rockets aren't the future, but with the government practically disowning NASA, as in giving it no to little money, pressuring cuts, and etc, a rocket is the best NASA can do. I believe that the best thing the USA has ever done is make NASA; and NASA has done the crowning achievement of humanity (other than to evolve): landing actually humans on the moon. Once again, Van Braun's work, along with his crack team of US/Operation Paperclip engineers. So yes, in short, I agree with the Space Plane idea, but don't just take out the F-1 engines and Van Braun and the past achievements of NASA. If they got 50% of the budget today, guaranteed we would have people on Jupiter's moons by the end of the 2030.

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Dfens April 22, 2013 at 8:23 am

NASA's average funding now is the same as it was over the period of the Apollo program (in inflation adjusted dollars), so don't let their whining get in the way of the facts. We should be going to space for less money than it took when our space program was in its infancy, it certainly should not cost more. That said, the typical "reusable" shuttle launch did cost more than an expendable Saturn V launch. Also, I was using sarcasm regarding Von Braun and his crew. NASA fired them all and did not replace them with anyone who knew anything about designing rockets. That's how we got where we are today. It's not the money. It's the people.

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