Amazon billionaire Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin space venture and subsidiaries of United Launch Alliance and Northrop Grumman are intervening in a SpaceX lawsuit protesting $2.3 billion in rocket development awards to those three companies.
In a redacted version of the lawsuit, originally filed on May 17 and made public today, SpaceX says it was unfairly passed over when the awards were made last October — and disparages the three companies’ rocket projects.
Orbital ATK sent its robotic Cygnus cargo spaceship on its way to the International Space Station today, loaded up with more than 7,200 pounds of supplies, equipment and science experiments.
The two-stage Antares rocket rose from its launch pad from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia at 4:44 a.m. ET (1:44 a.m. PT), lighting up the predawn sky for observers across a wide swath of the mid-Atlantic coast.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. — Orbital ATK’s entrant in the competition for national security launches has a new name: OmegA.
The project also has a new partner: Aerojet Rocketdyne, which will provide its RL10C rocket engine for OmegA’s upper stage.
Orbital ATK’s update on the rocket formerly known as the Next Generation Launch System came today at the 34th Space Symposium in Colorado Springs.
OmegA is designed to take on intermediate- to heavy-class launches by the Defense Department, civil government and commercial customers. It’s being developed jointly with the U.S. Air Force as an option for future national security launches under the Air Force’s Evolved Expendable Launch Vehicle program.
Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket today sent a Cygnus cargo spacecraft on the first step of its journey to the International Space Station with 7,400 pounds of supplies and experiments, including a nanosatellite that its backers say will become the first “space nation.”
The Asgardia-1 satellite, which is roughly the size of a loaf of bread, is the product of an effort organized by Russian scientist Igor Ashurbeyli. It’ll store thousands of files uploaded by online fans who have signed up as Asgardia’s “citizens.”
Northrop Grumman’s purchase of Orbital ATK for $7.8 billion will create a company involved in projects ranging from America’s next stealth bomber and ballistic missile system to the International Space Station and the James Webb Space Telescope.
The deal, previewed in news reports over the weekend and announced today, is part of a trend toward greater consolidation in the defense and aerospace industry.
Today’s launch of a robotic Cygnus cargo craft to the International Space Station was totally successful. But the first-ever live 360-degree video stream of a rocket launch? Not so much.
The good news is that more than 7,600 pounds of supplies and experiments are now on their way to the station aboard Orbital ATK’s cylindrical transport ship, which is named the S.S. John Glenn in honor of the late space pioneer and senator.
Among the payloads are more than three dozen nanosatellites and a new habitat for growing plants in the station’s weightless conditions, plus experiments to facilitate growing cell cultures and test anti-cancer drugs that activate the body’s own immune system. There’s also the latest in a series of experiments to study how things burn up in space.
Orbital ATK’s Antares two-stage rocket sent a robotic Cygnus cargo spaceship on its way to the International Space Station today, nearly two years after a launch pad failure forced an engine overhaul.
The Antares rocket blasted off from NASA’s Wallops Fllight Facility in Virginia right on time, at 7:45 p.m. ET (4:45 p.m. PT). NASA said the launch could have been seen by skywatchers across a wide swath of the East Coast, weather permitting.
Ten minutes after launch, the cylindrical Cygnus craft separated from the second stage, heading for the station with 5,100 pounds of supplies. After a series of checkouts, the Cygnus will approach the station for a rendezvous on Oct. 23.
This was the first Antares launch since October 2014, when the rocket and its payload blew up just seconds after liftoff. The failure was traced to a turbopump failure in one of the Antares’ refurbished 40-year-old Russian engines. In order to return to flight, Orbital ATK had to replace Antares’ engines with upgraded RD-181 engines from Russia. Wallops’ Pad-0A also had to be repaired.
In the meantime, Orbital ATK launched two Cygnus ships on space station resupply missions from Florida late last year and early this year, using United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rockets.
The good news is that the Atlas 5’s anomalous rocket engine performance on March 22 had no impact on Cygnus’ sendoff. The uncrewed capsule made its rendezvous right on time, and astronauts used the station’s robotic arm to bring it in for its berthing.
Over the next two months, crew members will unload Cygnus’ cargo – including a 3-D printer, a meteor-watching experiment and tons of more mundane items. Then they’ll fill it back up with trash and send it loose to burn up during atmospheric re-entry. During the descent, mission managers will use an experimental apparatus to set a fire inside the capsule and study how the flames spread.
Orbital ATK’s commercial Cygnus cargo capsule was lofted into orbit tonight atop an Atlas 5 rocket, carrying an upgraded 3-D printer, a gecko-type gripper, a fire-starting experiment and tons of other supplies to the International Space Station.
The launch vehicle made an on-time departure from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida at 11:05 p.m. ET (8:05 p.m. PT). If all goes according to plan, astronauts will grapple the uncrewed Cygnus spacecraft with the station’s robotic arm and pull it in to its berthing port on the Unity node on Saturday.
This will be Orbital ATK’s fourth delivery to the station under the terms of a $1.9 billion contract with NASA, and the second to make use of United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5. Orbital ATK had to turn to the Atlas when its own Antares rocket blew up shortly after launch in October 2014, destroying a Cygnus shipment. A redesigned Antares is expected to make its debut later this spring.