American company Orbital ATK, which builds medium-sized rockets, is now working on a different engine — the RD-181 — to provide thrust for its second Antares rocket. The first Antares rocket carrying the Cygnus spacecraft exploded 15 seconds after its launch in October 2014.
The company has been dealing with the consequences of the explosion ever since. Last month, NASA completed the investigation of the incident and released an executive summary, reported Arstechnica.
NASA and Orbital carried out their individual investigations, but the results differed. The Old Russian engine AJ-26 was cited as a problem by NASA. The team of researchers has released detailed photographs of the accident, which show the rocket breaking up and falling back on the spaceport, as reported by Arstechnica.
The 2014 accident resulted in major losses for Orbital. The Cygnus 3 spacecraft carrying around 5,000 pounds of pressurised cargo for the International Space Station (ISS) astronauts was reportedly lost.
This was the third of the eight supply mission paid by NASA; hence Orbital cannot afford to wait further.
The testing of RD-181 will start in early 2016, said Orbital in a statement.
Arstechnica said Orbital has tied up with competitor United Launch Alliance to fast-track their next launch mission. It is scheduled for 3 December at Cape Canaveral Air Force station in Florida. This will deliver the re-supply to the ISS.
NASA has offered a second round of re-supply contract. Some of the bidders, besides Orbital, are Space X, Boeing and Sierra Nevada Corporation. The decision, which had to be made by 5 November, has now been pushed further to 30 January, according to the procurement website.
Meanwhile, Boeing on Friday announced it has lost the race for the bid. Orbital still stands a chance depending on its early-December launch, which NASA will be closely monitoring, reported Arstechnica website.
"The Cygnus spacecraft completed a significant risk reduction testing programme last week," the company announced on social networking site Twitter.
— ICESat-2 (@NASA_ICESat2) November 6, 2015