Northrop Grumman has components for two Antares rockets

Northrop Grumman still has components for assembling two Antares rockets used to launch Cygnus cargo spacecraft. In this regard, the company has developed a plan to fulfill its supply obligations to the ISS in case it is impossible to resume the supply of the necessary parts.

Cygnus Spacecraft Value

Russia’s large-scale war against Ukraine has led to an almost complete boycott of the aggressor country by Western states, including in the space sphere. At the moment, the ISS remains the only point of contact between the parties in space. But it’s no secret that Russia is going to withdraw from the project. This threatens the future of the station, since now its orbit is maintained exclusively by means of the Zvezda module and Progress spacecraft.

Docking of the Cygnus spacecraft with the ISS. Source: NASA

The cargo spacecraft Cygnus can become the “savior” of the ISS. The fact is that it has the ability to raise the height of the station’s orbit (for example, the same cargo Dragon does not have such an opportunity). This means that it is able to take over the functions of “Progresses”.

Replacement of the Antares rocket

Unfortunately, not everything is so simple. The fact is that an Antares rocket is used to launch Cygnus. Its first stage was built by Ukrainian enterprises and equipped with Russian RD-181 engines. It is obvious that in the conditions of war, Russian bombing and destruction of economic chains, the production of new stages in the near future will be impossible (and in the case of the supply of new stages, they will still need to look for new engines).

Launch of the Antares rocket. Source: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

The good news is that Northrop Grumman has components for assembling two more rockets, which gives time to find a solution. According to the company’s representatives, they already have a backup plan that will allow Cygnus launches to continue regardless of the availability of the necessary components. However, so far Northrop Grumman has not disclosed its details.

The most obvious solution would be the Atlas V rocket, which until 2017 was used for Cygnus launches to the ISS. However, at the moment, the ULA launch operator has already stopped production of this carrier, and all the built copies are already painted for various launches. Consequently, Northrop Grumman will have to use a different rocket — for example, the new Vulcan carrier, or Falcon 9.

At the same time, it is possible that the company’s backup plan is to create a replacement for the missing components of the Antares first stage. In any case, most likely in the near future Northrop Grumman will announce its strategy for continuing to supply the ISS.

According to

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