Successful Test Firing Conducted on Taurus II’s AJ-26 Engine

SACRAMENTO, Calif., Sept. 29, 2011 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ — Aerojet, a GenCorp company, announced today that along with NASA and Orbital Sciences Corporation, the team conducted a successful ground test firing of an AJ26-62 flight engine that will power Orbital’s Taurus® II medium-class space launch vehicle. The test was conducted at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi.


Orbital Receives Commercial Launch License for Taurus II

(OSC PR – Dulles, VA – 31 August 2011) — Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world’s leading space technology companies, today announced that it received a Commercial Space Transportation Launch License from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to conduct the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program demonstration mission in early 2012. An expanded license covering the test flight of the company’s Taurus® II rocket in late 2011 is expected to be granted in the near future.

To secure the license, Orbital was required to submit extensive technical and program management data to the FAA about its Taurus II rocket and Cygnus™ spacecraft to ensure that all necessary operational requirements and safety precautions are met. Among the many items reviewed by the FAA were the rocket’s planned trajectory, ground tracking procedures, onboard safety and flight termination systems, and the experience and training of the launch operations team.


Italian Cygnus Module Arrives in America on Russian-Built Plane

…for launch aboard an American/Russian/Ukrainian rocket.

Space: it’s not just intergalactic, anymore. It’s international!

(OSC PR — Dulles, VA 25 August 2011) – Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), one of the world’s leading space technology companies, today announced that the first pressurized cargo module (PCM) for its Cygnus™ cargo logistics spacecraft has arrived at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia.


Cygnus Freighter to Arrive at Wallops on Wednesday

NASA PR — WASHINGTON — NASA’s partnership with industry to develop transportation to the International Space Station reaches another milestone on Wednesday, Aug. 24. The cargo module for Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Cygnus spacecraft, which will carry supplies to the station, is scheduled to arrive at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia at 4 p.m. EDT.

During the next several months, Orbital’s engineering team will integrate the PCM with the Cygnus service module that includes the spacecraft’s avionics, propulsion and power systems.

The Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled for a demonstration flight early next year on an Orbital Taurus II launch vehicle under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services agreement with the company. Cygnus will launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s pad 0A at Wallops. For information about the spacecraft, visit:

For information about NASA’s commercial space transportation efforts, visit:

Canadian Technology to Guide New Cygnus Freighter

Artist's conception of Orbital Sciences Corporation's Cygnus freighter approaching the International Space Station.

NEPTEC PR – OTTAWA, ON – Neptec Design Group, a leader in space, defence and industrial systems and applications, today announced it will provide its TriDAR rendezvous and docking sensors to Orbital Space Science Corp.’s Cygnus Spacecraft capsule, which will be used on the Cargo Resupply Services Program to resupply the International Space Station (ISS). Fresh off three successful test missions with the Space Shuttle, including the historic final flight STS-135, this partnership will see Neptec supply Orbital with 13 TriDAR systems to support Orbital’s initial round of resupply flights for the ISS.


Photos: X-34s on the Tarmac

During my recent visit to Mojave, I spotted these forlorn-looking X-34 test vehicles sitting on the tarmac beside Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Stargazer L-1011 aircraft.

As you might recall, these vehicles had originally been built by OSC for a NASA hypersonic research project that the space agency canceled in 2001. The vehicles were in storage at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center until late last year, when they were transferred to the nearby Mojave Air & Space Port after several companies expressed interest in using them as technology demonstrators for reusable spacecraft. They were originally stored in a hangar at the National Test Pilot School while being evaluated for possible flights, but they have been since moved outside.

Bolden Witnesses AJ26 Test Firing

AJ26 Engine NASA Administrator Charlie Bolden (left) and Stennis Space Center Director Patrick Scheuermann view a test firing of the first Aerojet AJ26 flight engine. Once flight acceptance is achieved, the engine will power the first stage of Orbital’s Taurus II space launch vehicle on commercial cargo missions to the International Space Station. NASA has partnered with Orbital to provide eight cargo missions to the space station, with the first scheduled for early 2012. Image Credit: NASA/Danny Nowlin

Bolden to View Acceptance Test of Taurus II Rocket Engine at Stennis

Aerojet's AJ26 engine successfully tested for Taurus II space launch vehicle. (PRNewsFoto/Aerojet)


Members of the news media are invited to visit NASA’s John C. Stennis Space Center on Monday, Feb. 7, to view a flight acceptance test of Aerojet’s AJ26 rocket engine for the Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Taurus II space launch vehicle.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden and executives from Orbital and Aerojet will be at Stennis to witness the test, which is targeted for 4 p.m. CST. Following the test, reporters will have an opportunity to ask questions of Bolden and the Orbital and Aerojet executives.


Taurus II Engine Tests Coming Along Nicely

Aerojet's AJ26 engine successfully tested for Taurus II space launch vehicle. (PRNewsFoto/Aerojet)


You see a lot of smiles around the E-1 Test Stand at John C. Stennis Space Center these days. Engineers involved in testing Aerojet’s AJ26 rocket engine for Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Taurus II space launch vehicle have good reason to smile.


MDA to Provide Solutions for Cygnus Capture and Mating

Artist's conception of Orbital Sciences Corporation's Cygnus freighter approaching the International Space Station.


MacDonald, Dettwiler and Associates Ltd. (TSX: MDA), a provider of essential information solutions, announced today that it has signed a multi-million dollar contract amendment exercising an option on the contract announced January 19, 2010. MDA will provide Orbital Sciences Corporation (Orbital) with solutions to enable capture and mating of the Cygnus(TM) cargo delivery spacecraft to the International Space Station.


NASA to Open New Rocket Integration Facility at Wallops

Pad OA at Wallops Island. (Credit: Orbital Sciences Corporation)


NASA will unveil its new rocket integration facility at the Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, during a ribbon-cutting ceremony at 10 a.m. EST on Friday, Jan. 21.

The Horizontal Integration Facility will support medium class mission capabilities. The first customer to use the facility will be Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va., with its Taurus II launch vehicle.

SpaceX, Orbital Sciences See Increase in NASA COTS Funding

NASA Has Boosted COTS Funding by Additional $40 Million Since October
Space News

NASA has boosted its investment in two logistics services being developed for the international space station by $40 million so far this year, and plans to double that payout by the end of March despite the fact that Congress has yet to appropriate the necessary funds for the effort, according to an agency official.


First Cygnus Flight to ISS Set for December

Artist's conception of Orbital Sciences Corporation's Cygnus freighter approaching the International Space Station. (Credit: OSC)

Launch Date Set For First Orbital COTS Demo
Aviation Week

NASA has set Dec. 14 as the target launch date for Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Commercial Orbital Transportation System (COTS) cargo demonstration mission. Meanwhile, the company says it continues to make progress with NASA toward attaining safety clearance for the mission, in which its Cygnus spacecraft will dock with the International Space Station (ISS).

The flight is scheduled to include delivery of a token cargo load using Orbital’s first Cygnus visiting vehicle, a service module combined with a pressurized cargo module (PCM). It is expected to be preceded by a Taurus II “risk-reduction” mission, which is still awaiting funding approval from Congress…

[Orbital Vice President Carl] Walz says the procedure will entail flying up to match the station’s orbit before using GPS satellites to “align the system and fly automatically up the R-bar,” a standard approach method based on using the radius vector to the Earth’s center. “Once we’re within 10 meters, we will go to ‘free drift’ mode and allow the ISS crew to grapple us,” he adds.

Read the full story.

Supply and Demand Issues Lead to Spike in U.S. Launch Costs

ULA's Atlas V

In my talk with David Livingston on The Space Show last night [listen here], he mentioned a Space News story from last month about a spike in U.S. launch costs that I had missed. I looked it up today and here’s the essence of it:

While 2011 is expected to be a banner year for NASA’s planetary science program with three missions scheduled for launch, future initiatives are threatened by budget uncertainties and a dramatic spike in the price of launch vehicles, according to an agency official.

“This is a really difficult financial environment,” Jim Green, NASA’s director of planetary science, said Dec. 15 at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union here.

Rides into orbit for NASA’s 2011 planetary missions, the Mars Science Laboratory (MSL), the Juno mission to Jupiter and the Moon-bound Gravity Recovery and Interior Laboratory (GRAIL), were purchased under the first NASA Launch Services (NLS) contract. That contract, which does not include specific quantities of rockets to be purchased or delivery dates, sets prices for launch vehicles and related services for NASA’s planetary, Earth observing, exploration and scientific satellites.


Another Successful Test Fire for Taurus II’s AJ26 Engine


NASA conducted a test fire Friday of the liquid-fuel AJ26 engine that will power the first stage of Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Taurus II space launch vehicle. The test at the agency’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi supports NASA’s Commercial Transportation Services partnerships to enable commercial cargo flights to the International Space Station.

Orbital’s Taurus II uses a pair AJ26 rocket engines built by Aerojet to provide first stage propulsion. Friday’s test on the Stennis’ E-1 test stand involved a team of Orbital, Aerojet, and Stennis engineers, with Stennis employees serving as test conductors.