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Antares Rocket Scheduled to Blast Off for the First Time After 2014 Explosion

Oct 07, 2016 04:38 AM EDT
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Orbital ATK's Antares rocket is going to make a big comeback. The rocket is set to fly again on Oct. 13 from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. It will carry the Orbital OA-5 Cygnus cargo freighter bound for the International Space Station (ISS). 

According to Universe Today, the Cygnus cargo craft is expected to arrive at the ISS on Oct. 16. Using the space station's robotic arms, the astronauts in the ISS will grab Cygnus and dock it at the bottom of the station's Unity module.

The Cygnus spacecraft will be loaded with about 5,290 pounds of supplies and science experiment payloads for the ISS. "Cygnus is loaded with the Saffire II payload and a nanoracks CubeSat deployer," Frank DeMauro, Orbital ATK Cygnus program manager said in a statement.

The Saffire II experiment will study combustion behavior in microgravity. Data that will be gathered from this experiment will be downloaded through telemetry. The Nanorack deployer will be releasing the Spire CubeSats that are used for weather forecasting.

Antares hasn't flown since it exploded shortly after lift-off in October 2014, destroying the small unmanned Cygnus cargo it was carrying, laden with thousands of pounds of supplies bound for the ISS. The failure was due to a malfunctioning turbopump in one of the rocket's old AJ-26 engines, Popular Science reports.

After the incident, the 14-story tall rocket was overhauled with two new RD-181 first stage engines, which were specifically designed by the Russian manufacturers for the rocket.

Orbital ATK was supposed to launch in May this year but the retrofitting of the new rocket engines. In the meantime, Orbital ATK has resumed flying cargo to the ISS on board the United Launch Alliance's (ULA) Atlas V rocket until Antares is ready to launch again. Using Atlas V, the company was able to successfully deliver two Cygnus vessels to the ISS, the OA-4 flight in December 2015 and the OA-6 flight in March 2016.

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