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Even as Orbital ATK begins to wrap up their investigation into the October launch failure of their Antares rocket, Russia delivered on July 16 the first two new replacement engines.
The RD-181 motors will be used in the first stage of the rocket. They will replace aging AJ-26 engines the company decided to stop using after one of them exploded during a launch last October. The AJ-26s are revamped NK-33 engines left over from the Soviet Union’s manned lunar program.
The first launch of the revamped Antares booster is set for next March. The rocket will carry a Cygnus cargo ship bound for the International Space Station.
Though these Russian new engines will allow Orbital to get Antares back into operation, they do limit that rocket’s marketability in the U.S.