Tag Archives: Wallops Island

Wallops launchpad repairs to take a year

According to spaceport officials, it will take a year to repair the damage sustained by the launchpad at Wallops Island from the Antares launch failure last month.

The damage didn’t look that serious in the initial assessments. I wonder if this long repair schedule isn’t a negotiating ploy for funding.

Antares to launch polar orbiting satellites?

The competition heats up: Orbital Sciences expects within a year to get government approval to use its Antares rocket to launch sun-synchronous satellites from its launch facility at Wallops Island, Virginia.

Currently Antares is used to launch cargo resupply missions to the international space station, whose orbital inclination — the angle at which it passes over the equator — of 51.6 degrees dictates that the rocket follow a southeasterly flight path over the Atlantic Ocean. To reach high-inclination orbits, the vehicle would presumably need to fly more directly toward the equator.

Among the details to be settled is the exact configuration of the Antares rocket Orbital would use to place satellites into sun-synchronous orbits, which are commonly used for Earth observation missions. The Antares rockets flown to date have been two-stage vehicles, but the company offers three-stage versions for missions with more stringent orbital-insertion accuracy or high-energy requirements.

The issue here is making sure the rocket stays clear of population areas during launch. An almost due south launch path, needed for polar orbit from Wallops Island, would pass this test.

Orbital Sciences is suing the government agency that operates the Wallops Island spaceport, saying it is refusing to pay a $16.5 million bill.

Orbital Sciences is suing the government agency that operates the Wallops Island spaceport, saying it is refusing to pay a $16.5 million bill.

I am not surprised. One of the prime reasons the launch of Antares and Cygnus was delayed by more than a year was because this same government agency had failed to upgrade the launchpad as promised, and Orbital Sciences was eventually forced to step in, take over, and spend millions to do the work itself.

The Virginia spaceport at Wallops Island is on schedule to hand control of its launchpad sometime this month so that Orbital Sciences can begin ground tests of its Antares rocket.

The Virginia spaceport at Wallops Island is on schedule later this month to hand control of its launchpad over to Orbital Sciences so it can begin ground tests of its Antares rocket.

The irony of this press release story is that Orbital has actually been running things, as it took over prepping the launchpad last year when the spaceport was unable to handle it.