Orbital ATK’s Antares 230 rocket is now back in service after its successful “return-to-service” mission on 17 October carrying the Cygnus OA-5/Alan Poindexter into orbit (along with four Lemur ship tracking satellites) for its docking with the International Space Station (ISS). While this flight was a successful operational launch, albeit a maiden flight of a brand new rocket as neither first and second stages had not been used before (the CASTOR XL second stage had been carried on a previous Antares flight but the launch failure immediately after lift off meant that it never had a chance to be used), nevertheless, NASA still had concerns over the Antares flight schedule.
This has caused Orbital ATK to commission another Atlas V rocket from ULA (United Launch Alliance) to ensure that the mission takes place on time. This flight will be the third Atlas V 401 launch carrying the Cygnus cargo craft. The two previous Atlas V 401/Cygnus launches were successful. The new order commissioned as part the ULA RapidLaunch programme will now take place in Q2 2017 carrying the Cygnus OA-7 mission.