Range development and support for the Antares mission continues to be a prime focus for Research Range Services (RRS). In 2008, Wallops Flight Facility (WFF) was selected to host the new Orbital Sciences Corporation vehicle as part of NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) following the last mission by the Space Transportation System (Space Shuttle) in July 2011.
The first test flight of the new launch vehicle is currently scheduled to occur in February 2012. Weighing 240,000 kilograms and able to insert a 7,000 kilogram payload into low-Earth orbit, Antares will be the largest launch vehicle to ever ascend from the Research Range. Further demonstration and operational missions will follow this test in 2012, incorporating the Cygnus spacecraft, designed to dock with and resupply the ISS with up to 2,000 kilograms of cargo each mission.
During the past few year, RRS promptly responded to the continuously expanding scope of the Antares program. While making tremendous progress and meeting key milestones towards the completion of all newly developed Range upgrades, RRS has also been heavily engaged in Wallops support of the Antares ground operations, which are now ramping up as the facility buildup has neared completion.
During this time, WFF completed construction and activation of the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF), the upgrade and activation of the Payload Processing Facility (PPF), and the retro-fitting of the Hypergolic Fueling Facility (HFF). RRS also enhanced range capabilities by improving the Launch Control Center and Range Control Center to support the more demanding testing and launch countdown operations forAntares.
With the activation of the HIF, RRS was able to accept delivery of Antares launch vehicle cores for the first and second missions. These vehicles are currently undergoing integration processing at the HIF to prepare them for their eventual delivery to Launch Pad 0A via a Transporter Erector/Launcher (TEL) and subsequent launch.
As part of the countdown of the first Antares launch, the TEL Pathfinder operation was conducted in October 2011. The TEL rolled out of the HIF carrying a simulated Stage 1 and made the 1 mile journey to Launch Pad 0A. The mass simulator was raised to the vertical position on the pad, validating both the TEL hydraulic systems and the pad interfaces including electrical, fuel, air conditioning, and the rapid retract system for launch.
Another exciting milestone was met with the arrival of an enormous Antonov An-26 aircraft delivering the first Cygnus Pressurized Cargo Module (PCM) in August 2011 and the second core in July 2013.