Antares (rocket)

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Antares A-ONE launch.2.jpg
The launch of an Antares 110 rocket
Function Medium expendable launch system
Manufacturer Orbital Sciences (main)
Yuzhnoye Design Bureau (sub)
ATK (sub)
Country of origin United States
Height 110/120: 40.5 m (133 ft)[1]
130: 41.9 m (137 ft)
Diameter 3.9 m (13 ft)[2]
Mass ~240,000 kg (530,000 lb)[1]
Stages 2 to 3[2]
Payload to
6,120 kg (13,490 lb)[3]
Associated rockets
Comparable Athena III
Delta II
Launch history
Status Active
Launch sites MARS LP-0A
Total launches 4 (110: 2, 120: 2)
Successes 4 (110: 2, 120: 2)
Failures 0
First flight 110: April 21, 2013[4]
120: January 9, 2014[5]
Notable payloads Cygnus
First Stage
Engines 2 × Aerojet AJ26-62[6]
Thrust 3,265 kN (734,000 lbf)[6]
Burn time 230 seconds
Fuel RP-1/LOX[6]
Second Stage
Engines 1 × Castor 30A/B/XL
Thrust 30A: 259 kN (58,000 lbf)
30B: 293.4 kN (66,000 lbf)[6]
Fuel TP-H8299/aluminum[7]

Antares, known during early development as Taurus II, is an expendable launch system developed by Orbital Sciences Corporation. Able to launch payloads heavier than 5,000 kg (11,000 lb) into low-Earth orbit, it made its inaugural flight on April 21, 2013.[4] Designed to launch the Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station as part of NASA's COTS and CRS programs, Antares is the largest rocket operated by Orbital Sciences.

NASA awarded to Orbital a Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Space Act Agreement (SAA) 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.[8] On December 12, 2011, Orbital Sciences renamed the launch vehicle "Antares" from the previous designation of Taurus II, after the star of the same name.[9]

As of July 2014, Antares has made four successful launches to orbit of four launch attempts.


The NASA COTS award was for US$171 million and Orbital Sciences expected to invest an additional $150 million, split between $130 million for the booster and $20 million for the spacecraft.[10] As of April 2012, development costs were estimated at $472 million.[11]

On June 10, 2008 it was announced that the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, formerly part of the Wallops Flight Facility, in Virginia, would be the primary launch site for the rocket.[12] Launch pad 0A (LP-0A), previously used for the failed Conestoga rocket, would be modified to handle Antares.[13] Wallops allows launches which reach the International Space Station's orbit as effectively as those from Cape Canaveral, Florida, while being less crowded.[10][14] The first Antares flight launched a Cygnus mass simulator.[15]

On December 10, 2009 Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK) test fired their Castor 30 motor for use as the second stage of the Antares rocket.[16] In March 2010 Orbital Sciences and Aerojet completed test firings of the NK-33 engines.[17] On February 22, 2013 a hot fire test was successfully performed, the entire first stage being erected on the pad and held down while the engines fired for 29 seconds.[15]


An assembled Antares rocket in the Horizontal Integration Facility

The first stage uses RP-1 (kerosene) and liquid oxygen (LOX) as propellants, powering two Aerojet AJ-26 engines, which are modified Soviet-built NK-33 engines. Together they produce 3,265 kilonewtons (734,000 lbf) of thrust at sea level and 3,630 kN (816,100 lbf) in vacuum.[6] As Orbital has little experience with large liquid stages and LOX propellant, some of the Antares first stage work was contracted to the Ukrainian Yuzhnoye SDO, designers of the Zenit series.[10] The core provided by Yuzhnoye includes propellant tanks, pressurization tanks, valves, sensors, feed lines, tubing, wiring and other associated hardware.[18]

Like Zenit, the Antares vehicle has a diameter of 3.9 m (150 in) with a matching 3.9 m payload fairing.[2] The fairing is manufactured by Applied Aerospace Structures Corporation of Stockton, California, which also builds other composite structures for the vehicle, including the fairing adaptor, stage 2 motor adaptor, stage 2 interstage, payload adaptor, and avionics cylinder.[19]

The second stage is a solid-fuel rocket, the Castor 30. Developed by ATK as a derivative of the Castor 120 solid stage, the Castor 30B produces 293.4 kN (65,960 lbf) average and 395.7 kN (88,960 lbf) maximum thrust, and uses electromechanical thrust vector control.[6] The first two flights of Antares used a Castor 30A, followed by two flights of the Antares 120 using an enhanced Castor 30B. The longer Castor 30XL second stage will be used on subsequent ISS resupply flights, allowing Antares to carry larger Enhanced Cygnus.[6][20][21]

Orbital Sciences offers two optional third stages, the Bi-Propellant Third Stage (BTS) and an ATK Star 48-based third stage. BTS is derived from Orbital Sciences' GEOStar spacecraft bus and uses nitrogen tetroxide and hydrazine for propellant; it is intended to precisely place payloads into their final 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]

Configurations and numbering[edit]

Test firing of the Castor 30 upperstage engine

The first two test flights used the Antares 110 configuration, with a Castor 30A second stage and no third stage. Subsequent flights will use either a Castor 30B or Castor 30XL. The rocket's configuration is indicated by a three-digit number, the first number representing the first stage, the second the type of second stage, and the third the type of third stage.[20]

Number First digit Second digit Third digit
(First stage) (Second stage) (Third stage)
0 N/A N/A No third stage
1 Standard first stage
(2 × AJ26-62)
Castor 30A BTS
(3 × IHI BT-4)
2 N/A Castor 30B Star 48BV
3 N/A Castor 30XL N/A

Launch History[edit]

Inaugural flight[edit]

Main article: Antares A-ONE

Originally scheduled for 2012, the first Antares launch, designated A-ONE[22] was conducted on April 21, 2013,[23] carrying the Cygnus Mass Simulator (a boilerplate Cygnus spacecraft) and four CubeSats contracted by Spaceflight Incorporated: Dove 1 for Cosmogia Incorporated (now Planet Labs) and three PhoneSat satellites – Alexander,[24] Graham and Bell for NASA.[25]

Prior to the launch, a 27-second test firing of the rocket's AJ26 engines was conducted successfully on February 22, 2013, following an attempt on February 13 which was abandoned before ignition.[15]

A-ONE used the Antares 110 configuration, with a Castor 30A second stage and no third stage. The launch took place from Pad 0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island, Virginia. LP-0A was a former Conestoga launch complex which had only been used once before, in 1995, for the Conestoga's only orbital launch attempt.[7] Antares became the largest — and first — liquid-fuelled rocket to fly from Wallops Island, as well as the largest rocket launched by Orbital Sciences.[22]

The first attempt to launch the rocket, on April 17, 2013, was scrubbed after an umbilical detached from the rocket's second stage, and a second attempt on April 20 was scrubbed due to high altitude winds.[26] At the third attempt on April 21, the rocket lifted off at the beginning on its launch window. The launch window for all three attempts was three hours beginning at 21:00 UTC (17:00 EDT), shortening to two hours at the start of the terminal count, and ten minutes later[clarification needed] in the count.[7][27]


List includes only currently manifested missions. All missions are planned to be launched from Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Launch Pad 0A.

Antares launch history
# Mission Payload Cygnus
Launch date
Rocket Outcome Notes Ref.
1 Antares A-ONE Standard April 21, 2013
Antares 110 Success Antares test flight, using a Castor 30A second stage and no third stage. [4][28]
2 Orb-D1 G. David Low Cygnus Standard September 18, 2013
Success Orbital Sciences COTS demonstration flight. First Cygnus mission, first mission to rendezvous with ISS, first mission to berth with ISS, second launch of Antares. The rendezvous between the new Cygnus cargo freighter and the International Space Station was delayed due to a computer data link problem,[29] but the issue was resolved and berthing followed shortly thereafter.[30] [31][32][33]
3 CRS Orb-1 C. Gordon Fullerton Cygnus Standard January 9, 2014
Antares 120 Success First Commercial Resupply Service (CRS) mission for Cygnus, and first Antares launch using the Castor 30B upper stage. [5][20][32][33]
4 CRS Orb-2 Janice Voss Cygnus Standard July 13, 2014
Success Spacecraft carried 1,664 kg (3,668 lb) of supplies for the ISS, including research equipment, crew provisions, hardware, and science experiments. [20][33][34]
5 CRS Orb-3 Cygnus spacecraft Standard October 27, 2014
NET 22:44
Antares 130 Planned First Antares launch to use Castor 30XL upper stage; payload will include a Planetary Resources Arkyd-3 satellite.[35] [20][36]
6 CRS Orb-4 Cygnus spacecraft Enhanced 2015 Planned First Enhanced Cygnus mission [20][37]
7 CRS Orb-5 Enhanced TBD Planned [20][37]
8 CRS Orb-6 Enhanced TBD Planned [20][37]
9 CRS Orb-7 Enhanced TBD Planned [20][37]
10 CRS Orb-8 Enhanced TBD Planned [20][37]

Launch sequence[edit]

The following table shows a typical launch sequence, such as for launching a Cygnus spacecraft on a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station.[38]

T Minus Event Altitude
T- 03:50:00 Launch management call to stations
T- 03:05:00 Poll to initiate liquid oxygen loading system chilldown
T- 01:30:00 Poll for readiness to initiate propellant loading
T- 00:15:00 Cygnus/payload switched to internal power
T- 00:12:00 Poll for final countdown and MES medium flow chilldown
T- 00:11:00 Transporter-Erector-Launcher (TEL) armed for rapid retract
T- 00:05:00 Antares avionics switched to internal power
T- 00:03:00 Auto-sequence start (terminal count)
T- 00:02:00 Pressurize propellant tanks
T- 00:00:00 Main engine ignition
T+ 00:00:02.1 Liftoff
T+ 00:02:55 Main engine cut-off (MECO) 102 km (63 mi)
T+ 00:03:01 Stage one separation 108 km (67 mi)
T+ 00:05:31 Fairing separation 168 km (104 mi)
T+ 00:05:36 Interstage separation 170 km (106 mi)
T+ 00:05:40 Stage two ignition 171 km (106 mi)
T+ 00:07:57 Stage two burnout 202 km (126 mi)
T+ 00:09:57 Payload separation 201 km (125 mi)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Kyle, Ed (May 14, 2011). "Taurus 2". Space Launch Report. 
  2. ^ a b c d e "Antares Medium-class Launch Vehicle: Fact Sheet" (PDF). Orbital Sciences Corporation. 2013. Archived from the original on June 3, 2013. Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  3. ^ "Antares" (Press release). Orbital Sciences Corporation. Retrieved August 5, 2014. 
  4. ^ a b c Perrotto, Trent J. (April 21, 2013). "NASA Partner Orbital Sciences Test Launches Antares Rocket" (Press release). NASA. Retrieved April 25, 2013. 
  5. ^ a b "ISS Commercial Resupply Services Mission (Orb-1)". Orbital Sciences Corporation. Retrieved January 8, 2014. 
  6. ^ a b c d e f g "Antares Medium-Class Launch Vehicle: Brochure" (PDF). Orbital Sciences Corporation. 2013. Retrieved April 25, 2012. 
  7. ^ a b c Graham, William (April 21, 2013). "Antares conducts a flawless maiden launch". NASA Spaceflight. Retrieved April 22, 2013. 
  8. ^ Aviation Week and Space Technology: 22. February 25, 2008. 
  9. ^ Beneski, Barron (December 12, 2011). "Orbital Selects "Antares" as Permanent Name for New Rocket Created by the Taurus II R&D Program" (Press release). Orbital Sciences Corporation. 
  10. ^ a b c Bergin, Chris (February 25, 2008). Space News. p. 12. 
  11. ^ Rosenberg, Zach (April 30, 2012). "Orbital Sciences development costs increase". Flight International via 
  12. ^ Hickey, Gordon (June 9, 2008). "Governor Kaine announces 125 new jobs for Virginia" (Press release). Commonwealth of Virginia via 
  13. ^ Kennedy, Jack (June 13, 2008). "Taurus-2 Launch Pad to be Ready in 18-Months at Wallops Island Spaceport". Spaceports. 
  14. ^ Glass, Jon W. (February 20, 2008). "Wallops up for big role with firm's NASA contract". The Virginian-Pilot via 
  15. ^ a b c Bergin, Chris (February 22, 2013). "Hot fire success for Orbital's Antares". NASA Spaceflight. Retrieved February 23, 2013. 
  16. ^ Beneski, Barron (December 10, 2009). "Second Stage Rocket Motor Of Orbital's Taurus II Launcher Successfully Ground Tested" (Press release). Orbital Sciences Corporation. 
  17. ^ Clark, Stephen (March 15, 2010). "Aerojet confirms Russian engine is ready for duty". Spaceflight Now. Archived from the original on March 22, 2010. Retrieved March 18, 2010. 
  18. ^ "Antares User's Guide, Rev. 1.2" (PDF). Orbital Sciences Corporation. December 2009. 
  19. ^ "Antares Launch Vehicle". Applied Aerospace Structures Corporation. Retrieved April 26, 2014. 
  20. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Bergin, Chris (February 22, 2012). "Space industry giants Orbital upbeat ahead of Antares debut". NASA Spaceflight. Retrieved March 29, 2012. 
  21. ^ Bergin, Chris (March 5, 2013). "CASTOR 30XL prepares for static fire ahead of providing Antares boost". NASA Spaceflight. Retrieved March 7, 2013. 
  22. ^ a b Bergin, Chris (March 17, 2013). "Stars align for Orbital's Antares – A-One debut set for mid-April". NASA Spaceflight. Retrieved April 22, 2013. 
  23. ^ Clark, Stephen (April 21, 2013). "Antares test launch paves new highway to space station". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved April 22, 2013. 
  24. ^ Krebs, Gunter. "PhoneSat v2". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved April 22, 2013. 
  25. ^ Krebs, Gunter. "PhoneSat v1". Gunter's Space Page. Retrieved April 22, 2013. 
  26. ^ Weil, Martin (April 21, 2013). "Wind postpones rocket launch at Wallops Flight Facility". The Washington Post. 
  27. ^ Amos, Jonathan (April 21, 2013). "Orbital's Antares rocket makes test flight". BBC News. Retrieved April 22, 2013. 
  28. ^ "Antares Cold Flow Testing Begins and Antares A-ONE Gets All Dressed Up". Orbital Sciences Corporation. December 2012. Archived from the original on March 6, 2013. Retrieved March 5, 2013. 
  29. ^ Dunn, Marcia (September 22, 2013). "Computer mishap delays space station supply ship Cygnus". The Washington Post. Retrieved September 22, 2013. 
  30. ^ Bergin, Chris (September 28, 2013). "Orbital’s Cygnus successfully berthed on the ISS". NASA Spaceflight. Retrieved October 8, 2013. 
  31. ^ Clark, Stephen (May 6, 2013). "First flight of Cygnus cargo craft delayed to September". Spaceflight Now. Retrieved August 7, 2013. 
  32. ^ a b Pearlman, Robert Z. (December 9, 2013). "Orbital names next space station freighter for late pilot-astronaut". Retrieved December 9, 2013. 
  33. ^ a b c "Worldwide launch schedule". Spaceflight Now. Archived from the original on August 11, 2013. Retrieved August 9, 2013. 
  34. ^ "ISS Commercial Resupply Services Mission (Orb-2)". Orbital Sciences Corporation. 2014. Archived from the original on April 7, 2014. Retrieved July 13, 2014. 
  35. ^ Wilhelm, Steve (October 16, 2014). "First step toward asteroid mining: Planetary Resources set to launch test satellite". Puget Sound Business Journal. Retrieved October 19, 2014. 
  36. ^ "Orbital Sciences Commercial Resupply Launch". NASA. Archived from the original on October 19, 2014. Retrieved October 19, 2014. 
  37. ^ a b c d e "Launch Manifest". Orbital Sciences Corporation. Archived from the original on December 11, 2013. Retrieved December 8, 2013. 
  38. ^ "Orbital-2 Mission to the International Space Station Media Press Kit". NASA. July 2014. Retrieved 13 July 2014. 
  39. ^ "CASTOR 30-A Multi-use Motor". 2011. Retrieved July 2014. 

External links[edit]

Media related to Antares (rocket) at Wikimedia Commons