After its Antares launch disaster, Orbital Sciences Corporation has purchased an Atlas V 401 launch plus option from the United Launch Alliance, in order to fulfil its contract obligations to NASA to carry cargo to the international space station. The launch, scheduled for the fourth quarter 2015, may use an extended version of the Cygnus cargo craft carrying more cargo given the Atlas V’s better lifting performance. A follow on launch option has also been agreed for 2016, depending on the progress Orbital Sciences has had with its re-engining of its Antares launch vehicle. The new engine for this was later confirmed as the NPO Energomash RD-181, two of which will replace the pair of NK-33 engines refurbished to AJ-26 standard.
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