Next month's groundbreaking at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia will see construction start for Orbital Sciences' Taurus II launch pad, from where an International Space Station resupply demonstration will begin in 2011 for the US agency's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) programme.
In the second quarter of 2010 Wallops will see Taurus II's first-stage statically fired following a test of the stage's Aerojet AJ26 engines in the fourth quarter of 2009. Orbital has at least six COTS milestones to pass before the test firing, of which three have been completed.
They are: a project plan review, the demo mission's systems requirements review and a preliminary design review for Orbital's unpressurised Cygnus cargo spacecraft. Cygnus has two versions, one unpressurised and one for pressurised cargo, able to deliver around 2,300kg (5,060lb).
"We have a very complex schedule. [Ukraine's] Yuzhnoye design bureau is building our first-stage [propellant] tanks," says Orbital's advanced programmes group general manager Antonio Elias, speaking to Flight at the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics' Space 2008 conference in San Diego, California.
Elias' company will spend $150 million on its Cygnus-Taurus II system and NASA will contribute $170 million. Orbital's AJ26 propulsion systems were originally the Russian Moon rocket N-1's first-stage NK-33 engines.