Taurus II is now Antares! Orbital announced on Dec. 12 that Antares will be the permanent name of the medium-class launch vehicle under development by the company over the last four years.
Why? To clear up any marketplace confusion and provide clear differentiation between this new launch vehicle and our Taurus XL rocket. Antares is significantly different – it serves the medium-class space launch market and its liquid fuel first stage technology is major departure from previous Orbital space launch vehicles. In addition, a project of this scale and significance deserves its own name like Orbital's Pegasus, Taurus and Minotaur rocket programs that have come before it.
Why Now? We view 2011 as the symbolic end to the development phase of the Taurus II project. The design and development of the rocket is complete and we are now in the testing phase, which will culminate with two important tests in the first half of 2012 – a stage one static fire test and the first Antares test flight, both to occur at our new Wallops Island, Virginia launch facility.
Why Antares? Antares is one of the brightest stars in the skies and we expect the Antares rocket to be one of the brightest stars in the space launch vehicle market. Orbital selected the name in keeping with the company's tradition of using Greek-derived celestial names for launch vehicles.