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Antares Rocket Launch Is A Success, In Test Of Orbital Supply Vehicle

The Antares rocket lifts off from the launchpad at the NASA facility on Wallops Island Va., Sunday, beginning a test mission that has now been deemed a success. The Orbital Sciences Corp. rocket will eventually deliver supplies to the International Space Station.
Steve Helber

The Antares rocket launch is back on for 5 p.m. ET Sunday afternoon, as engineers and spectators look for the rocket to lift off from a launch pad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. A check of all systems at 10 minutes before its launch was positive.

Update at 5:20 p.m. ET. Mission Called A Success:

Officials say the Antares mission is a success, after a steady stream of status updates in which flight control engineers seemed to repeat "nominal" several times a minute. The vehicle will now drift in orbit before burning up in re-entry, likely in a few weeks, officials say.

The next Antares launch could take place in June or July, when the rocket would deliver a payload to the International Space Station.

Update at 5:10 p.m. ET. Orbit Achieved, Payload Separated:

Antares moved smoothly through its two stages and achieved orbit, drawing applause from engineers watching in the control room. Soon after, it delivered its practice payload into orbit around the Earth. The test mission has about eight more minutes remaining.

Update at 5:02 p.m. ET. Liftoff Is A Success:

The Antares rocket soared above Wallops Island Sunday afternoon. Just before the engines were throttled down in Stage 1, the vehicle was traveling at more than 7,000 miles per hour. Our original post continues:

The mission had been postponed twice this week, after a connecting cable came loose on Wednesday and unfavorable winds forced a one-day delay on Saturday. Officials believe the launch may be visible from sites all along the eastern U.S. coast.

Around 3:30 p.m. ET Sunday, the rocket was approved for launch and fueling of the vehicle began, NASA reported.

The NASA facility is located just behind the beach on Wallops Island on Virginia's Eastern Shore. Antares is a product of a joint development project between NASA and , based in Virginia.

As NPR's Geoff Brumfiel reported Wednesday, a successful test would eventually make Orbital "the second private company after California's SpaceX to dock with the space station."

The Antares project promises to bring new life, in the form of future space launches, to the Wallops Flight Facility that was founded in 1945.

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Bill Chappell is a writer and editor on the News Desk in the heart of NPR's newsroom in Washington, D.C.
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