Orbital Sciences Corporation has built a rocket named Antares which will transport cargo to the International Space Station. On Sunday afternoon at 5 p.m. ET (2100 GMT), for the first time, the rocket successfully lifted off the ground from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The launch was the first from the pad at Wallops and also the first flight of Antares.
Antares is a medium-class, two-stage, 40 meter tall rocket. It has been designed to carry payloads of up to 6,500 kg (14,329 pounds). Around 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday, Antares was approved for launch and fueling of the vehicle began. At 5 p.m. ET, the rocket successfully lifted off. During launch, it was carrying 8,400-pound mock Cygnus spacecraft.
Just before the engines were throttled down in Stage 1, the vehicle was traveling at about 7,200 miles per hour (mph). When the rocket reached an altitude of 117 miles from ground, its speed was 9,400 mph and stage 2 ignition took place. About 10 minutes after launch at an altitude of 158 miles from the ground, the simulated cargo ship was released into orbit. The test launch also deployed three PhoneSat nanosatellites nicknamed – Alexander, Graham, and Bell – that feature smartphone technologies. Here’s the launching video of Antares:
The successful test launch means Orbital will start ferrying goods to the space station and will become the second private company to do so after SpaceX. It has been mentioned that the next Antares launch is slated for June or July of this year and will carry a real Cygnus spacecraft to dock with the ISS.