Rising up from a blast of fire and steam, Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares rocket roared off its Virignia launch pad this evening to begin successful inaugural mission. Liftoff occurred on Sunday, April 21 at 5:00 p.m. EDT from the new Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A at the NASA’s’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. It marked the first launch for both the vehicle and launch pad. Ten minutes after launch, Antares released its payload into orbit, a mass simulator of Orbital’s Cygnus ISS cargo resupply spacecraft,
Antares’ first mission was completed about 18 minutes after launch after the rocket’s upper stage completed planned maneuvers to distance itself from the payload. The test flight demonstrated all operational aspects of the new Antares launcher, including the ascent to space and accurate delivery of a simulated payload to a target orbit of approximately 150 by 160 miles, with an inclination of 51.6 degrees, the same launch profile it will use for Orbital’s upcoming cargo resupply missions to the International Space Station for NASA.
“Today’s successful test marks another significant milestone in NASA’s plan to rely on American companies to launch supplies and astronauts to the International Space Station, bringing this important work back to the United States where it belongs,” said NASA Administrator Charles Bolden. “Congratulations to Orbital Sciences and the NASA team that worked alongside them for the picture-perfect launch of the Antares rocket. In addition to providing further evidence that our strategic space exploration plan is moving forward, this test also inaugurates America’s newest spaceport capable of launching to the space station, opening up additional opportunities for commercial and government users.
“President Obama has presented a budget for next year that ensures the United States will remain the world leader in space exploration, and a critical part of this budget is the funding needed to advance NASA’s commercial space initiative. In order to stop outsourcing American space launches, we need to have the President’s budget enacted. It’s a budget that’s good for our economy, good for the U.S. Space program — and good for American taxpayers.”
“Today marked a giant step forward for the Antares program, with a fully successful inaugural flight of the largest and most complex rocket the company has ever developed and flown, said Mr. David W. Thompson, Orbital’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer. “With its successful test flight from the MARS pad at Wallops Island, we will now move forward toward completing the full demonstration mission of our system to resupply the International Space Station with essential cargo in just a couple of months.”
The test of the Antares launch system began with the rocket’s rollout and placement on the launch pad April 6, and culminated with the separation of the mass simulator payload from the rocket.
Today’s test launch, dubbed the Antares A-ONE mission, was conducted under the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Space Act Agreement Orbital entered into with NASA in 2008. Following a successful demonstration mission to the ISS of Orbital’s complete system in mid-2013, including the launch of the first Cygnus cargo logistics spacecraft, Orbital will begin regular operational cargo delivery missions to the Space Station under its Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA. The $1.9 billion CRS contract calls for the delivery of up to 20,000 kilograms of essential supplies to the ISS over eight separate missions from 2013 to 2016.
The completed flight paves the way for a demonstration mission by Orbital to resupply the space station later this year. Antares will launch experiments and supplies to the orbiting laboratory carried aboard the company’s new Cygnus cargo spacecraft through NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract.
“Today’s successful test flight of Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket from the spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia, demonstrates an additional private space-launch capability for the United States and lays the groundwork for the first Antares cargo mission to the International Space Station later this year,” said John Holdren, director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. “The growing potential of America’s commercial space industry and NASA’s use of public-private partnerships are central to President Obama’s strategy to ensure U.S. leadership in space exploration while pushing the bounds of scientific discovery and innovation in the 21st century. With NASA focusing on the challenging and exciting task of sending humans deeper into space than ever before, private companies will be crucial in taking the baton for American cargo and crew launches into low-Earth orbit.
“I congratulate Orbital Sciences and the NASA teams at Wallops, and look forward to more groundbreaking missions in the months and years ahead.”
Orbital is building and testing its Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program. After successful completion of a COTS demonstration mission to the station, Orbital will begin conducting eight planned cargo resupply flights to the orbiting laboratory through NASA’s $1.9 billion CRS contract with the company.
NASA initiatives, such as COTS, are helping to develop a robust U.S. commercial space transportation industry with the goal of achieving safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station and low-Earth orbit. NASA’s Commercial Crew Program also is working with commercial space partners to develop capabilities to launch U.S. astronauts from American soil in the next few years.
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