Orbital’s Antares rocket returns to flight with successful cargo launch

Orbital’s Antares rocket returns to flight with successful cargo launch

Orbital ATK's unmanned Antares rocket carrying a cargo ship for the International Space Station (ISS) successfully blasted off from Virginia Monday night, U. S. space agency NASA announced.

The successful launch of the 14-story-tall rocket from Wallops Island, Virginia, at 7:45 p. m. EDT or 2340 GMT yesterday marked the booster's return to flight a couple of years after its previous version exploded during liftoff.

Amanda Davis, director of program engineering at Orbital ATK, said, "It's such a feeling of elation to see the vehicle take off. ... I'm very happy to see Antares back."

The upgraded Antares rocket, which gets its power from two Russian-made engines, carried a Cygnus capsule loaded with nearly 5,290 pounds of food, equipment and science experiments for astronauts at ISS.

On May 31, Orbital conducted a half minute engine test firing of the Antares rocket at the launch pad in Virginia, but it had never flown the upgraded rocket before its real launch on Monday.

The launch had become more crucial for NASA after a September 1st accident that destroyed SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket. The accident temporarily grounded SpaceX, the only private-sector space firm apart from Orbital that has been contracted by the government space agency to fly cargo to the orbiting lab.

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