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Northrup Grumman (was Orbital Sciences) Antares / Cygnus


May 23, 2008
Winchester, UK
Orbital Sciences successfully launched their Antares on its first COTS resupply mission today (after 2 demo flights last year).

While reading up on it, I was surprised by the amount of foreign and pre-existing parts of the vehicle.

- The first stage is made by the Yuzhnoye Design Bureau in Ukraine and is derived from the Zenit rocket but has refurbished motors from the Russian N1 moon rocket.

- The second stage is an Alliant Techsystems (ATK) Castor 30 which is derived from Castor motors used on previous OS rockets and before that, missiles.

- The presurised cargo module is built by Thales Alenia Space of Italy.

- The service module is derived from OS's Star geostationary satellite buses.

It's quite a contrast from SpaceX's mostly in-house approach.


Oct 30, 2012
In regards of the in-house IP of Antares, it is. But other ways, launch company founded in 80s, with 594 launches and 174 satellites built, how f... it's like Fisker? Example: SpaceX has only launched satellites made by Orbital to Geostationary orbit :)
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Nov 14, 2013
Ontario, Canada
Fisker also used mostly outside parts.

This is also similar to the approach that Musk wanted to take at first with SpaceX, until coming to the realization that he believed it could all be done more efficiently and went to work building everything in-house to reduce costs. It's not surprising that other companies chose NOT to do this, as it is a massive undertaking.

I'm still not sure about the Antares viability long-term. Orbital has a contract with Aerojet for 32 of the first stage Russian engines (just enough to complete their 16 CRS launches for NASA). Beyond that, Aerojet only has 23 more of these Russian engines (enough for 11 more launches). Nobody is manufacturing this engine anymore (although Aerojet has offered to work with Kuznetsov to restart production). Orbital tried to buy another engine (the RD-180) but ULA blocked that and Orbital has sued.


Should be interesting to see what Orbital does (or doesn't do) going forward. They aren't even in attempting to get themselves certified to carry humans (commerical crew). Once SpaceX, Sierra Nevada, and Boeing get this running, and Orbital is winding down it's CRS missions, I have a feeling that Orbital quietly steps aside and shelves its Antares rocket.
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SpaceX Moderator
Jan 31, 2012
Santa Fe, New Mexico
Interesting. So Orbital got a sweetheart deal on a bunch of obsolete (in the sense of no longer made) engines to make a competitive bid for these resupply runs?

We don't exactly know how much profit SpaceX is making from any of these flights but if they are making a decent amount of profit then they are really sweeping the board in pricing. To be competitive or beating the price of a company getting discount rates on it's parts is just a game changer.


Administrator / Head Moderator
Nov 28, 2006
SF Bay Area
Orbital's 3rd resupply mission suffered a rocket failure shortly after liftoff.



Model Y custom Warming Stripes wrap.
Mar 18, 2009
10/28/14 Orbital Sciences re supply mission failure

Here is the live stream Orbital Sciences Commercial Resupply Launch | NASA

I don't follow this as closely as Tesla stuff.
When I first saw it I was afraid it was a SpaceX launch.
Still sad to see, but I am glad it wasn't SoaceX.

Currently they are reporting all personnel accounted for with no injuries.
The supply mission was an unmanned mission.

Edit, please delete or merge, information already posted.


S P4996 ==> P02547
Supporting Member
Apr 27, 2012
Bradfordwoods, PA
Five thousand pounds of gear destined for the ISS. Wondering if their first phone call was to Elon, asking how soon a Falcon9 could be ready.

I feel so sad for all the time and effort that people must have put into the mission, just to see it end like that.


Long Time Follower
Supporting Member
May 8, 2010
Boston Suburb
Just glad there were no injuries or fatalities.
This was supposed to be the 3rd of eight such trips, by Orbital Sciences as part of a NASA contract worth $1.9 billion.


Oct 30, 2012
Failed Soviet Moon program byte back again? (I know NK-15 vs. NK-33/AJ26, not same thing) Maybe same the root cause as in the failed AJ26 test in may?

Bad wrap for commercial NASA programs...


SpaceX Moderator
Jan 31, 2012
Santa Fe, New Mexico
As Elon says: "Rockets are not easy." I'm glad no one was hurt. A rocket is basically a controlled explosion. It only takes one very minor flaw to create a catastrophic event like we saw.

The Antares uses a Russian engine very similar to the RD-180 engines used on the Atlas 5. It is the NK-33. It is reworked by Rocketdyne and given a new designation to the AJ26. There was a significant engine failure during testing in May.

Antares Rocket Engine Suffers Significant Failure During Testing

NK-33 - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Curt Renz

Well-Known Member
Mar 5, 2013
I believe it was an Orbital Sciences rocket under a similar contract with NASA.

Yes, it was Orbital Sciences which is a publicly traded company. It's shares are down about 17% in after hours trading compared with the regular hours closing price. SpaceX is a privately held company.

Elon Musk tweets his sorrow to Orbital Sciences: Elon Musk on Twitter:
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