From wire reports It's not that big of a rocket, really, and the cargo in the spacecraft is relatively mundane - about 1,500 pounds of clothes, food, water, chocolate for the chocolate-craving astronauts, and so on. But the rocket that blasted off at
"Go Antares, go Cygnus," a flight controller said just moments before ignition of the rocket on a splendid day at the mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, where gentle ocean waves were hitting the beach a stone's throw from the launch pad.
The launch was by the book. A few minutes into the flight, Orbital tweeted: "Pressures remain strong. Our favorite word 'nominal.' "
"If you needed more tangible proof that this is a new era of exploration, it's right here, right now in
This is a "demonstration" mission to prove that Orbital has the hardware and know-how to send cargo to the station, a feat that requires autonomous docking and other delicate orbital maneuvers. The Cygnus spacecraft will reach the space station in a few days and remain docked there until late October. This is not a reusable spacecraft, so it will crash into the
A successful mission for Orbital would greatly please
It was Wallops' second high-profile launch this month. On
If all goes well,
Another company, SpaceX, has flown three cargo missions to the station and has a
First, though, it has to get through this final demonstration mission, which is part of a separate agreement with
"A lot of people have put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into it," said
Culbertson said Orbital has potential customers waiting to see how this launch turns out. The 135-foot-tall Antares rocket made a successful test flight earlier this year. Although Orbital has a long track record of successful launches, this is the company's first liquid-fueled rocket.
"You're always nervous about the first two launches of any new system," Culbertson said before Wednesday's successful launch.
At the moment, U.S. astronauts commute to the space station on Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Orbital was not selected as a finalist in the competition to carry people into orbit. Three companies - SpaceX,
Hovering over the industry is the unresolved question of space- station funding.
This story was compiled from reports by The Washington Post and
- online See video of Wednesday's launch at PilotOnline.com.
on Evening Pilot
"Rocket frog" made headlines when
From wire reports
It's not that big of a rocket, really, and the cargo in the spacecraft is relatively mundane - about 1,500 pounds of clothes, food, water, chocolate for the chocolate-craving astronauts, and so on. But the rocket that blasted off at