Working under a $1.9 billion COTS agreement with NASA, Virginia-based Orbital Sciences Corporation (OSC) has just delivered the first stage of its Antares rocket to a launch pad at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility. The vehicle's maiden flight is scheduled for as early as this July.
The company is developing the Cygnus cargo spacecraft for resupplying the International Space Station. This vehicle needs to complete 8 successful runs to the orbital outpost over the next few years.
This July may see the first flight of the Antares, which OSC is developing specifically for the Cygnus capsule. The test was supposed to be conducted in 2011, but difficulties with the liquid propellant fueling and pressurization systems at the Wallops pad forced the company to delay.
The first stage of Antares will undergo a number of pathfinder tests and fit checks over the next few days. If completed successfully, these assessments will mark an important step towards achieving the July launch target, Space