Orbital Sciences Cites Weather in Launch Delay to April 20

Orbital Sciences Corp. (ORB) is pushing back the test launch of its Antares unmanned rocket until at least April 20.

The company, based in Dulles, Virginia, had planned to launch tomorrow from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. It’s delaying because weather conditions are expected to deteriorate, Orbital said in a Twitter posting.

The new launch attempt will be no earlier than 5 p.m. Washington time April 20, the company said.

Orbital yesterday called off the rocket’s maiden flight about 12 minutes before the scheduled liftoff after a cable disconnected prematurely.

The data link disconnected early because of a combination of too little slack in the cable and “slight hydraulic movement” by launch equipment, according to an e-mailed statement today from Barry Beneski, an Orbital spokesman.

Beneski didn’t return a phone message seeking details.

“The good news is that this is a simple adjustment to the external support systems,” Frank Culbertson, an Orbital executive vice president, said in the statement.

Cargo Delivery

The Antares (ANT) test launch from Wallops would be a key milestone in the company’s plan to begin regular cargo deliveries to the International Space Station as early as September.

The test launch involves delivering a simulated version of the Cygnus unmanned supply ship to orbit. The replica won’t connect with the station.

The issue that prevented yesterday’s launch was “absolutely a trivial issue,” James Oberg, a former engineer for the space shuttle program, said in a phone interview. “It’s simple to fix. It’s the kind of thing that happens with new launch pads and new rockets.”

Orbital is trying to match the success of billionaire Elon Musk’s Space Exploration Technologies Corp., which last May became the first company to dock a commercial craft at the station.

Orbital has a $1.9 billion contract with NASA for eight cargo resupply flights to the space station.

To contact the reporter on this story: Nick Taborek in Washington at ntaborek@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Stephanie Stoughton at sstoughton@bloomberg.net

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