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Orbital Sciences Antares & Cygnus spacecraft


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#1 DocM

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Posted 22 June 2011 - 20:10

Both being components of Orbital Science's ISS COTS cargo resupply system, sharing that function with SpaceX's Falcon 9/Cargo Dragon system.

Unlike Cargo Dragon, the Italian-built (Thales) Cygnus has no downmass (cargo return) capability, burning up on re-entry like the Russian Progress, Europe's ATV and Japan's HTV cargo carriers.

The Taurus 2's first stage is Ukrainian, built by the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau. The 2nd stage is Alliant Techsystems (ATK) solid fuel Castor 30. Launches will be from NASA's Wallops Island Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS)

Cygnus page....

Taurus II page....

Today Aviation Week reports that the Taurus 2's AeroJet AJ-26 engine, based on the old Russian NK-33, suffered damage during a test stand fire 2 weeks ago. This could result in a delay of the first Taurus 2/Cygnus test flight well into next year.

Aviation Week....

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#2 neoadorable

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Posted 25 June 2011 - 15:59

why does it have to burn up on re-entry, that's an awful waste. BTW like that acronym, MARS...nice touch.

#3 OP DocM

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Posted 25 June 2011 - 17:24

Yup - Cygnus is a disposable cargo container.

When NASA was handing out the two budgeted COTS contracts they went to SpaceX and Rocket Plane-Kistler, both of which were two-way spacecraft capable of downmass return and re-use. RpK failed to meet their milestones and NASA pulled the contract and gave it to the #3 contender - Orbital Sciences Cygnus, which was a disposable container like the ATV and HTV. They were the closest to being ready of the remaining COTS competitors.

Now that AJ-26 engine issue looks to delay them several months. Instead of being a failed test stand fuel line as first thought it was a failure of a metal fuel line in the engine itself.

This is a huge deal because AeroJet was also going to use that engine to compete for NASA's SLS heavy lifter, first using re-certified Russian NK-33 engines that have been in storage since the early 1970's then later producing their own, all using the AJ-26 name. This metal failure brings up the possibility that those stored engines may have deteriorated more than previously thought.

NK-33 is an evolution of the N-15, the engine originally designed for the Russian N1 moon rocket, a Saturn V size launcher which failed badly giving the US the lead in the space race. All 4 test flights of the N1 failed, mostly caused by engine failure or malfunction.

Not a good sign :p

#4 neoadorable

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Posted 28 June 2011 - 13:42

well, why did they think using the same materials from the N1 would work? even i know that the N1's lack of performance was what dissuaded the Soviets from going head to head with US on manned missions, so why would this work several decades later? I mean you'd expect the metal side of things to be taken care of, this isn't new technology, it's effectively the same stuff we've had for 80 years now. i'm not trying to put anyone down and i'm certainly no engineer myself, but i don't really understand the thinking in many of these cases.

#5 OP DocM

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Posted 28 June 2011 - 15:38

A tale of two companies -

Orbital, being a traditional hoizontally integrated company, saw getting mothballed Russian engines at a discount as a way to reduce development costs. They have AeroJet refurb them for initial use, then reverse engineer them for production using traditional rocket building methods. The contract a Ukraine outfit to build the first stage, buy ATK's Castor 2nd stage, and have Thales in italy do the Cygnus. Very much a traditional cost structure. Decision making is bureaucratic and top down.

OTOH SpaceX is vertically integrated and chose to design a new-tech engine in-house, the Merlin, that was simpler and easy/cheap to mass produce using outside the box auto industry methods in volume. They've already said they could build 700-800 a year per line. They buils the entire Falcon 9 structure and Dragon, only buying what the have to while learning to build it themselves later. Decision making is non-bureaucratic: line engineers identify the problem and work out a fix. They then have a very few people (usually Elon) make the call, which is from reports is usually to go with the teams recommendations.

#6 neoadorable

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Posted 30 June 2011 - 12:53

clearly the latter model works a lot better...i wonder how long SpaceX will be able to remain like that? hopefully even when they get bigger they'll retain this culture.

#7 OP DocM

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Posted 23 July 2011 - 19:09

1/3 of the stored NK-33/AJ26's have the defect that caused the test stand problem and need work. There goes the cost curve - and it pushes the first test flight out of 2011 and into 2012.

http://www.spacenews...ut-delayed.html

>
In a conference call with investors, Thompson said an early-June test failure of a Taurus 2 first-stage AJ26 engine is unlikely to have much impact on the rocket’s overall launch schedule as an initial assessment of the other AJ26 engines in supplier Aerojet’s inventory shows that two-thirds appear not to have the defect that caused the mishap. The remaining one-third will require rework or repair, he said
>



#8 OP DocM

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Posted 27 August 2011 - 02:40

Orbital Science's Cygnus launch early next year is at risk from hurricane Irene, which looks to hit NASA's Wallops Island, Virginia launch facility head-on Sunday. Making matters worse is that Sunday is also high tide.

The National Weather Service Interactive Storm Surge program shows an expected 10-20 ft surge at least 2-4 miles inland, and the Taurus 2/Cygnus assembly/integration facility is 11 ft above sea level.

There are two 1st stages, at least one 2nd stage and the Cygnus spacecraft at risk, and it took a giant Russian AN-124 transport to get them there.



Mission simulation video


#9 neoadorable

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 14:34

why would a launch scheduled for next year be affected so by a storm in late August? it should be enough time to recover. but was there actually any damage?

#10 OP DocM

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Posted 01 September 2011 - 21:39

The area was flooded but they got lucky and the Taurus II and Cygnus weren't damaged.


The things are loaded with very complex electronics, the upper stages have solid rocket fuels, and the first stage has and explosives in case it goes off course. Not the stuff you want to get wet.

#11 neoadorable

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Posted 05 September 2011 - 14:09

i understand. hopefully it'll be ok after a good inspection.

#12 OP DocM

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Posted 23 February 2013 - 04:26

Antares (formerly Taurus 2) hotfire engines test tonight!!

Presser: http://www.orbital.c...se.asp?prid=847

First test flight in a few weeks.



#13 neoadorable

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 16:32

All the more power to them, no pun intended!

#14 OP DocM

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Posted 25 February 2013 - 19:48

Antares / Cygnus is important beyond being an ISS resupply partner. The AJ-26 engine it uses has an upgrade version with almost 500,000 lbs of thrust that's been considrred for possible use on the Space Launch System or evolved boosters for Lockheed & Boeing.

#15 OP DocM

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Posted 22 March 2013 - 12:14

Antares maiden flight no earlier than April 16, 2013 @3:00 PM Eastern from the Wallops Island spaceport in Virginia.. Additional launch windows on the 17th and 18th if needed, same time.

Antares is a medium class launcher capable of launching 5 metric tons (11,000 lbs) to low Earth orbit, which is similar to the ULA Delta II. This is also about 32% to 37% the lift Falcon 9 v1.1, depending on the F9's configuration.

This test flight will not carry the Orbital Sciences Cygnus ISS resupply spacecraft, just a mass simulator. If this is successful Cygnus will make its first flight later this year.

Antares overview w/ pictures - PDF....