As we prepare to launch the Cygnus OA-7 mission from NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Orbital ATK’s Antares team at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility is making great progress on the company's eighth Cargo Resupply Mission (known as OA-8) to the International Space Station. The team plans to have Antares fully integrated and ready for the Cygnus payload by May.

Antares vehicle in the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) on Wallops Island. Photo by NASA/Patrick Black



OA-8 Fun Fact
The OA-8 mission will carry 3350kg of cargo to the space station onboard a Cygnus spacecraft. This will be the largest amount of cargo to be carried on an Antares mission to date and is the equivalent of sending more than three classrooms or 105 fifth graders to space!

“We are working a steady cadence at our home port in Wallops,” said Kurt Eberly, Antares Deputy Program Manager for Orbital ATK. “Our plan is to be ready in advance of when NASA needs us to fly.”

This week the team installed the aft bay over the fully integrated RD-181 engines on the first stage core. This milestone marks the completion of successful installation of all feed lines and completion of leak checks between the first stage core propellant tanks and the engines. The team has also completed all of the electrical system checks of the first stage.

In parallel, the large second stage Castor 30XL motor supplied by our Propulsion Systems Division in Utah has been going through mechanical integration including motor cone and avionics structure installations.

The Antares avionics structure is built and tested by the Orbital ATK team in Chandler, Arizona, then shipped to Wallops for integration. The avionics structure is fully populated with the components that control Antares during flight including the navigator, flight computer and telemetry systems.

Antares Team is installing the Aft Bay on the OA-8 vehicle. Photo by NASA/Patrick Black


“This program combines the best capabilities of our merged company with our propulsion and launch vehicles teams,” said Eberly. “For this mission we are really seeing the smooth operations that come from having a combined team of expertise that makes Orbital ATK.”

In May, the team will mate the first and second stage, complete flight simulation testing and then lift and transer the fully-assembled vehicle onto the Transporter/Erector/Launcher (TEL) where it will be ready for the Cygnus mate. The Antares team will be ready to launch OA-8 as early as this summer, and OA-9 as early as the end of this year. The specific launch dates for these missions will be selected jointly with NASA as we get closer to these time frames. Once OA-8 is complete, the Antares team will begin integrating the OA-9 vehicle.

Antares OA-8 Vehicles on the left is preparing for launch this fall. The OA-9 first stage sits to the right. Photo by NASA/Patrick Black


“The goal of the program is to achieve an efficient, steady integration flow for the next set of Antares launches. Our Lanch Vehicles Division program personnel at Chandler and Dulles along with our Propulsion Systems Division motor team in Utah are critical to making sure that the fully integrated hardware assemblies and released software are delivered on time and in the right configuration to our field site to enable our operations team to execute the planned schedule activities each and every day,” said Eberly. “So a big thank you to everyone that supports the Antares program!”

Along with the vehicle integrations, Virginia Space has fully completed the pad readiness after the OA-5 flight last fall.

“Virginia Space is ready to support the upcoming missions, OA-8 and OA-9 from MARS,” said Dale Nash, Virginia Space Executive Director. “We look forward to getting Antares on the pad and ready to take cargo to the crews aboard the space station."

MARS Pad 0A is ready to support missions from Antares home port in Wallops Island, Virginia. Photo courtesy of Virginia Space