Antares comes to life, with new RD-181 engines

The Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket has completed a hot-fire test of the first stage in advance of the upcoming Cygnus mission to the ISS.  This is the first time the brand-new Energomash-built RD-181 engines have been fired at Wallops Island.  The RD-181s are more powerful and more reliable than the forty-five-year-old rebuilt NK-33/AJ-26 engines that Antares originally flew with until a catastrophic launch failure grounded the rocket  (Cygnus has been flying on Atlas V in the meantime).  The first stage is still largely built by Yuzhnoye in Ukraine, while the upper stage will still be a venerable Thiokol (later ATK now Orbital ATK) Castor 30, powered by solid propellant.

Watch the stage roar to life here:

There’s no sound from the rocket, but you can definitely tell when it gets loud, because the vibrations play merry havoc with the launchpad cameras.  😉

Here’s another, somewhat less shaky view:


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