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Space ISS NASA Transportation

Privately Built Antares Test Flight Successfully Launched From Virginia 85

After high winds (up to 140mph) delayed yesterday's scheduled launch (itself a re-do because of a cabling problem), Orbital Science's Antares rocket has made it to space. This launch was a test run, but Antares is intended to launch supplies to the ISS. Space.com reports: "The third try was the charm for the private Antares rocket, which launched into space from a new pad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, its twin engines roaring to life at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) to carry a mock cargo ship out over the Atlantic Ocean and into orbit. The successful liftoff came after two delays caused by a minor mechanical glitch and bad weather." Congratulations to all involved.
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Privately Built Antares Test Flight Successfully Launched From Virginia

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  • Horray for Antares (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Geoffrey.landis ( 926948 ) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @06:18PM (#43511939) Homepage

    Congrats for Antares.
    The more ways to get to orbit, the better!

  • Some decades ago, when the Space Race happened, people began saying that humanity has entered the Space Age, but the subsequent years of sitting on our asses and accomplishing nothing have proven that wrong, demolishing several generations' worth of dreams.

    Today, perhaps, that might actually be coming true.

    We sure as hell are living in exciting times.

    • by Trepidity ( 597 )

      While it's a nice achievement, I'm not sure this has much to do with a new space age. Orbital Sciences already has a number of working launch options [orbital.com], which they regularly use to launch both commercial and NASA payloads. This is adding one which can launch larger payloads than their current options (such as the Minotaur) are able to do, but it's not for going to Mars or anything like that.

    • I wish you were right.. but the answer is no. What those rockets are used for has not changed. The missions are still the same; the customers are still the same.

      We have to discover something valuable in space.. then the space age will begin as everyone capable goes into space to claim their share of whatever it is.

      • Yeah, I can not imagine that if Bigelow and SpaceX put up INEXPENSIVE systems to leo would be bad. Or if Bigelow/SpaceX make it on the moon by 2020 like they want, I can not imagine that a number of smaller nations will not pay 100 M or less to put 1 of their ppl on their to explore.
  • Phones in Space! (Score:5, Interesting)

    by backspaces ( 747193 ) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @06:41PM (#43512021) Homepage

    I like this:

    Antares also carried three coffee cup-size Phonesat satellites - called Alexander, Graham and Bell - into orbit as part of a space technology experiment for NASA's Ames Research Center in California. The tiny 4-inch-wide satellites use commercial smartphones as their main computers.

  • It's getting it up there that is expensive not the cargo itself necessarily. So for test flights why not put something up there anyway that can be used... Maybe a supply of water or fuel. It it's lost it's no big loss.

  • by stox ( 131684 ) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @06:48PM (#43512047) Homepage

    The engines used for the Antares are refurbished Russian NK-33's, originally built for use on the N-1 booster. These engines are pretty much 40+ years old.

    • Re:Interesting fact (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Bureaucromancer ( 1303477 ) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @07:01PM (#43512089)
      Can anyone confirm or deny if the supply of them is limited? I've heard a couple times that there's no real possibility of Orbital Sciences getting more. How many Antares launches can we actually get? As much as Orbital Sciences has done some impressive things I have some real doubts about the usefulness of this system.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward

        I believe Aerojet licensed the *design* and built new, somewhat modernized engines.

        • by Anonymous Coward

          This gets done in rocketry all the time. The engine designs from the Saturn have been dug up, and redesigned with something like a 100:1 parts ratio and a dramatic increase in thrust with a smaller nozzle.

        • no. what they did is take the 40 year old engines and refurbish them (replace perishable seals etc), then add modern, western electronics and gimbal hardware and adjust for RP-1 rocket fuel rather than the 1970's Soviet equivalent.

          whether they could actually produce new engines under the license they have is an open question - there has been a license for the RD-180 (used on the Atlas-V) for a long time, but no attempt at production has ever been made in the US. hell, they may not even be able to make new N

    • The engines used for the Antares are refurbished Russian NK-33's, originally built for use on the N-1 booster. These engines are pretty much 40+ years old.

      So is the engine on my Hemi Road Runner. Want to run for pinks? There's this thing called "maintenance" and another called "improvement" that all the cool guys do. Oh yeah, get off my lawn.

  • Phonesats (Score:3, Insightful)

    by photonic ( 584757 ) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @07:00PM (#43512087)
    Congrats to orbital, even though launching a new rocket assembled from parts built by Russians by a company that is already working in the space business for many years seems a small accomplishment compared to what SpaceX pulled off. As is common on a first flight, the main payload is an instrumented dead weight. The coolest thing about this mission is IMO some small cubesats they launched as secondary payloads. These are some super cheap phonesats [nasa.gov] built by NASA, which are powered by a Nexus One or Nexus S. Data packets that could be received via amateur radio should hopefully appear here [phonesat.org] soon.
  • May we never get to thinking that sending up a rocket into space is easy...
    • Why not? It would be nice if sending a rocket into space was easy.

      • Why not? It would be nice if sending a rocket into space was easy.

        I think he means 'let's never get complacent' and cocky. Before there was ever a successful rocket launch there were so many failures with lives lost. The space shuttle disaster, launched in freezing temperatures which caused the engines o-rings to shrink and let gasses escape, Russia's rocket fuel failure that killed many (including some of their best scientists on the ground). Perhaps over-confidence played a factor in those disasters.

        Rockets are very complicated machines, and we have much still to lear

        • And I was hoping that one day rocket science might not be "rocket science."

        • by AJWM ( 19027 )

          Rockets are very complicated machines, and we have much still to learn.

          They're complicated when the design criteria includes maximizing performance regardless of cost, which was the general design rule in the 1950s and 60s. (In the 70s and 80s, that morphed to maximizing NASA jobs and the number of congressional districts the work is done in, almost regardless of cost.)

          As an above poster mentioned, the Saturn F1 (for example) has been redesigned as the F1-B with different design goals, reducing the parts

    • by VortexCortex ( 1117377 ) <VortexCortexNO@S ... t-retrograde.com> on Monday April 22, 2013 @01:27AM (#43513371)

      May we never get to thinking that sending up a rocket into space is easy...

      We may never get to thinking that buliding a mechanical computation device is easy... However, regardless of how difficult that very complex engineering task is, you can't deny it's down right affordable now.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    The first stage itself was designed and built by a Ukrainian rocket company. It used old Russian NK-33 engines. The second and third stages were designed and built by ATK. So, what value did Orbital Sciences provide? Lobbying and paperwork?

    • Not to denigrate the fine contribution of lobbying and paperwork to any successful endeavor, but you might find that turning a collection of components into an integrated system - even for something as trivial as a space launch - is a little more complicated than clicking Legos together. Besides, only the first and second stages were delivered as components. That still leaves the fairing, separation systems, launch vehicle interface to the ground systems, the ground systems themselves (1st stage is liquid),
      • by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Sunday April 21, 2013 @09:46PM (#43512705) Journal
        The fairing has had a lot of issues with OSC. In fact, NASA will only use OSC for finishing this contract and will no longer use OSC's launch group. Worse, OSC not only did not build the fairing, but they have not built the seperation system, the avionics, etc. They have done little to nothing.
        As such, they one of the most expensive launch costs going, as well as zero control. Within 4 years, OSC will be out of the launch industry. Instead, we are likely to see Aerojet and possibly Rocketdyne merging with one of the smaller builders and then building a tug/depot, or perhaps their own form of a land-able launch system.

        But as for OSC, with 20 years worth of launch, they have control over next to NO technology. They outsourced it to Europe, Russia, Aerojet, ATK, and a few others. IOW, they are finished.
        • Instead, we are likely to see Aerojet and possibly Rocketdyne merging with one of the smaller builders and then building a tug/depot, or perhaps their own form of a land-able launch system.

          Not sure if you were implying that Aerojet or Rocketdyne merging independetly with a small builder, or if you meant the combined Aerojet/Rocketdyne merging with a small builder. Aerojet (parent company Gencrop) is actually in the process of closing on the purchase of Rocketdyne.

          http://www.aerojet.com/media/InvestorPresentation_GenCorpAcquisition.pdf [aerojet.com]

          • Ouch. I have been busy for the last couple of months so was not paying attention to this. I figured that Aerojet would go after builders (say armadillo) rather than engine builders. To be honest, I am disappointed in this one. I would rather see Rocketdyne picked up by ULA (though there are issues with it, but still possible). We desperately need competition. However, if this leads to AJ deciding to be a rocket builder, then great. Just not sure how that will happen.
        • This post is nonsense. NASA sure as heck will use OSC in the future, if they bid competitively

          So they had some problems with a fairing on one of their launch families (Taurus I). Big deal. They have had dozens of successful flights in a row with their Pegasus launch vehicle, and they just had a basically flawless launch, perhaps even better than SpaceX's first Falcon 9 launch. The fairing thing was a problem with Taurus I, but clearly it hasn't hurt them on this launch.

          Just because OSC doesn't vertically in

      • by tp1024 ( 2409684 )

        If you had listened to the commentary after the launch, you would have heard the boss of OSC rattling down a laundry list of companies doing stuff for them - including external companies doing the ground systems and the separation systems (which I distinctly remember). Basically everything was done by somebody else.

    • Nope. They did not lobby for this. NASA approached them. BUT, you are right that OSC outsourced it all. All they did was assemble this. Heck, Cygnus was done 100% in Europe. And Antares will carry 5 tonnes to LEO for about 50-60 million. Right now, the Falcon 9 carries 13 tonnes to LEO for 50 million and shortly the FH will take 54 tonnes for 100 million. So for 2x the price of Anteres, you can carry 10x the cargo. Pretty scary.

      And all of that will be destroyed when SpaceX is successful with Grasshopper I
    • by AJWM ( 19027 )

      Orbital has a history of using hardware from other sources. The main stage of their Taurus is based on the Peacekeeper missile, for example.

      Nothing really wrong with that, except it means they don't have the same kind of cost control that SpaceX does, who design and build all their own systems.

  • "Antares PhoneSat Cubesat Launch Now Planned for April 21"
    can be selected from the list on Right side column of this page:

    + http://ww2.amsat.org/ [amsat.org]

    No solar panels => Satellites get short lives (a week or two?)

    So, use 'em while their batteries last... as soon as they begin
    to work. AMSAT site should have the uplink & downlink freq's
    (& you should have an Amateur Radio license to transmit...)

    Heavens-Above.com can tell you when to listen for the little,
    battery-powered Ham satellites. (Cf Amsat.org for n

  • by tp1024 ( 2409684 ) on Monday April 22, 2013 @03:22AM (#43513633)

    The whole second stage is from ATK, made using the same factories where they usually build ICBMs. The first stage engines are 1970ies Soviet relics. The rest of the first stage (tanks, thrust structures etc.) was build by Yuzhmash [wikipedia.org] a state-owned Ukranian rocket builder. The Cygnus spacecraft will be provided by Tahles Alenia Space, which itself stretches the definition of "private".

    • by khallow ( 566160 )

      The whole second stage is from ATK, made using the same factories where they usually build ICBMs.

      That's private right there. I sense you started with that because you thought otherwise. Even being as dependent on public funding as ATK is, it is still a private company.

      The rest is correct, though I understand the private company Aerojet made the engines for the first stage using a 70s Soviet design.

  • What no MOO2 references here? Disappointed Slashdot, disappointed...

Genetics explains why you look like your father, and if you don't, why you should.