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Weather-delayed Antares rocket finally lifts off


Antares was successfully lifted off Sunday, after weather twice pushed back the launch. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls
Antares was successfully lifted off Sunday, after weather twice pushed back the launch. Photo: NASA/Bill Ingalls

Daniel Martins, staff writer

April 21, 2013 — Privately-developed Antares is latest step in commercial space flight.

After being twice delayed by unfavourable weather, NASA and commercial space company Orbital Sciences Corporation finally succeeded in launching a prototype private space rocket.

The Antares rocket lifted off at 5 p.m. EDT Sunday from NASA's launchpad on Wallops Island, Virginia, the first launch from the facility.

"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 laucnhing to the space station, opening up additional opportunities for commercial and government users," NASA administrator Charles Bolden said in a release.

The rocket was carrying a payload roughly equal in mass to the Cygnus space capsule that will eventually be launched by the rockets.

Orbital plans a series of eight test deliveries with Cygnus and Antares, starting in the fall.

Since the end of NASA's space shuttle program in 2011, the agency has turned to the private sector for new ways to deliver cargo and astronauts to the International Space Station.

It has relied so far on Russian Soyuz capsules for cargo and astronaut launches.

In the meantime, NASA has a number of test contracts with private companies.

California company SpaceX is in the middle of a series of supply runs to the station, with the third blasting off last month.

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