Orbital ATK has conducted a crucial step in the return of its Antares rocket to flight operations later this year from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia. This crucial step took place on Tuesday at Pad-0A, where the company performed a static fire of the newly redesigned Antares core stage ahead of the rocket family’s return to flight on NET 6 July 2016.
The road to the static fire has been one of slow and steady progress for Orbital ATK following the October 2014 mishap during the Orb-3 launch.
2014-11-07 01_52_53-NASA Antares Rocket Launch Failure – Huge Explosion [Live] [HD] [Full] – YouTubeThat mishap led to a critical redesign of the Antares core stage away from its 100 series configuration with Aerojet AJ26 engines and into its 230 configuration with two RD-181 engines.
To this end, the Antares 230 variant will not only provide better engine reliability for the rocket, but will also increase its overall performance and payload-to-orbit targets.
In all, the upgraded Antares 230 will be capable of providing a 25% increase in payload-to-orbit capability over the Antares 100 series via a 13% higher thrust performance of the RD-181 engines over the AJ26 engines and a 10 second higher Specific Impulse (ISP) of the RD-181s over the AJ26s.
Impressively, this engine changeout, while significant, was done with minimal reconfiguration of the Antares core stage.