On September 18, 2013, at 10:58 local time Antares rocket was successfully launched from the Regional Spaceport at NASA Wallops Island (Virginia).
The first stage of the Antares rocket designed and manufactured by Ukrainian enterprises Pivdenmash and Design Bureau Pivdenne. These companies have entered into a long-term contract with an American corporation Orbital Sciences. Funding for the program has been provided by NASA in the amount totaling 1.9 billion USD.
The launch ceremony was preceded by a series of events in which by the invitation from NASA participated management of the Orbital Sciences Corporation, State enterprises of Ukraine Design Bureau Pivdenne and Pivdenmash, the delegation of the State Space Agency of Ukraine and Ukraine’s Ambassador to the U.S. Olexander Motsyk. During these meetings, including with NASA Associate Administrator Robert Lightfoot, they discussed the prospects for the implementation of the Antares project with the involvement of Ukrainian enterprises as well as new opportunities for the Ukrainian -American cooperation in space.
The next regular Antares launch to deliver cargo to the International Space Station planned to be held later this year.
Successful launch of the Antares became a historic step for the further development of Ukrainian-American relations in the field of rocket and space policy and an important component of the strategic partnership between Ukraine and the United States.
The Antares project is a concrete example of practical international cooperation between Ukraine and the United States.
Launch vehicle Antares - project developed by the American company Orbital Sciences Corporation with participation of subcontractors from Ukraine: State Enterprise of Ukraine Design Bureau Pivdenne and State Enterprise Pivdenmash, Aerojet (USA), ATK (USA), and several others.
Under the partnership agreement, the NASA contracted Orbital Sciences Corporation to design and produce the space commercial delivery vehicles. The main purpose of Antares is to become a NASA cargo delivery to the International Space Station.
As part of a demonstration mission to the International Space Station the cargo module Cygnus was launched into the Earth orbit. It will be docked then to the International Space Station (ISS). There is approx. 600 kg of supplies, including food for the crew of the ISS on Cygnus. If the mission is successful the Antares and Cygnus will significantly enhance the capabilities of NASA in carrying out research in microgravity.
During the launch and flight into space that will last a few days, a number of parameters will be checked on Cygnus spacecraft. According to the flight plan, on September 22, 2013 Cygnus will be on rendezvous with the ISS. After performing a number of tests and maneuvers, the cargo spacecraft will be captured by the mechanical manipulator of ISS and docked to the station via Harmony module.
Antares rocket is a two-stage launch vehicle, designed to launch payloads weighing up to 5,000 kg into the Earth orbit.
The first stage Antares designed by the Design Bureau Pivdenne and produced by the State Enterprise Pivdenmash under the long-term contract with Orbital Sciences Corporation. It is equipped with two rocket engines type AJ- 26-62 by the American company Aerojet.