Orbital ATK launches Cygnus J.R. Thompson

Orbital ATK successfully launched their Cygnus spacecraft towards the International Space Station this morning. The spacecraft named J.R. Thompon is carrying 7,385 lbs of cargo to the station and is scheduled to be captured on Thursday by the stations Canadarm 2.  As with the previous Cygnus launches the spacecraft was given a name this time “J.R. Thompson”

S.S. J.R. Thompson

For each CRS mission, it is a tradition at Orbital ATK to name the Cygnus cargo spacecraft for an individual who has furthered our nation’s human spaceflight programs. For our OA-9 mission, we are proud to announce that the OA-9 spacecraft will be named after J.R. Thompson, a distinguished leader in the aerospace industry and a member of our Orbital ATK family. Throughout his life, J.R. held prominent positions at NASA, the Marshall Space Flight Center, and Orbital Sciences. We are honored to celebrate his life with the upcoming launch of the S.S. J.R. Thompson.

Quote from OA-9 mission page

The launch was originally scheduled to liftoff on Sunday 20th but was delayed a day to allow the teams additional time to perform inspections and tests of the system to ensure a successful launch today.

This was the first launch for Orbital ATK this year, the 8th overall for the Antares rocket and the 10th for the Cygnus spacecraft.  After the Orb-3 launch failure in October 2014, Orbital launched two Cygnus spacecraft on United Launch Alliances Atlas V.

What does the future hold for Antares

Following the failure last year of the Antares rocket during the Orb3 resupply mission to the International Space Station Orbital ATK have had to select a different rocket engine for the rocket. They have elected to use the RD-181 engine from Russia company NPO Energomash, they are expecting the first pair to be delivered later this year and will begin integrating them with the first stage replacing the older AJ26.

However the future for the rocket is also contingent on Yuzhmash from Ukraine which supplies the first stage. Due to the on-going conflict in Ukraine it is unknown at this time if Yuzhmash can continue to build the first stages and the longer the conflict goes on the harder it will be to restart and catch up with any backlog the company has as they also supply parts for eight other current or planned rockets..

We reached out to Orbital ATK regarding this situation but have not heard back to determine what options they have, we also don’t know how many of the first stage’s they already had in the US for future Antares flights.

If we heard back from Orbital ATK we will update the article with any information that is available.

Orbital CRS-3 Update 11/03/2014

Over the weekend, Orbital confirmed the participation of the following individuals who will serve on the Antares launch failure Accident Investigation Board (AIB), which is being led by Orbital under the oversight of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The composition of the AIB is as follows:

Chairman

  • David Steffy, Chief Engineer of Orbital’s Advanced Programs Group

Members

  • David Swanson, Senior Director of Safety and Mission Assurance for Orbital’s Technical Operations organization
  • Wayne Hale, Independent Consultant and Former NASA Space Shuttle Program Manager
  • David Cooper, Member of Orbital’s Independent Readiness Review Team for the company’s Launch Systems Group
  • Eric Wood, Director of Propulsion Engineering for Orbital’s Launch Systems Group
  • Tom Costello, Launch Vehicle Assessment Manager in the International Space Station Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center
  • Matt Lacey, Senior Vehicle Systems Engineer for NASA’s Launch Services Program

FAA Oversight Team

  • Michael S. Kelly, Chief Engineer, FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation
  • Marcus Ward, Mishap Response Coordinator, FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation

Antares Data Review

The AIB is initially focused on developing a “fault tree” and a timeline of the important events during the launch sequence. Due to the large amount of data available, the AIB is able to work with a rich source of information about the launch. One of the initial tasks for the AIB is to reconcile the data from multiple sources, a process that is now underway, to help create the launch sequence timeline.

Launch Site Status

Over the weekend, Orbital’s Wallops-based Antares personnel continued to identify, catalogue, secure and geolocate debris found at the launch site in order to preserve physical evidence and provide a record of the launch site following the mishap that will be useful for the AIB’s analysis and determination of what caused the Antares launch failure. The debris is being taken to a NASA facility on Wallops Island for secure and weather resistant storage.