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After Antares Explosion, Orbital Turns to Atlas 5 Rocket

Orbital Sciences Corp. plans to buy at least one launch on United Launch Alliance's Atlas 5 rocket to resupply the International Space Station.
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In the wake of October's Antares rocket explosion, Orbital Sciences Corp. said on Tuesday that it would buy at least one launch on United Launch Alliance's Atlas 5 rocket for a cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station late next year. The company said it has an option to use another Atlas 5 for a 2016 cargo run. Meanwhile, Orbital is moving ahead with plans to replace the Antares' Soviet-era engines with an alternative propulsion system.

Orbital's Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo ship were destroyed in a spectacular blast seconds after liftoff for the space station on Oct. 28. Investigators traced the failure to problems with the refurbished Russian engines. Despite the setback, Orbital intends to follow through on its $1.9 billion contract with NASA to deliver 20 tons of cargo to the station by 2017. In a news release, the company said using the Atlas 5 would allow more cargo to be delivered at a time. Orbital hasn't revealed which engine will be used on the remodeled Antares, but some reports suggest it might be a different type of Russian engine.



— Alan Boyle