Successful first launch of Antares rocket
Launch of the Antares rocket from NASA”s Wallops Flight Facility (Image: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares rocket lifted off Sunday at 5:00 PM EDT (21:00 GMT) from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A at NASA”s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The launch was the first from the pad at Wallops and also the first flight of Antares, which carried a "mass simulated payload" equivalent to the mass of a spacecraft into Earth orbit.
The Antares launch was delayed several times since the rocket was rolled out to the launch pad April 6, but Sunday’s successful launch paves the way for the first visit of the company’s unmanned Cygnus cargo ship to the International Space Station (ISS) in a demonstration mission planned for later this year.
The Antares is a two-stage rocket designed to put 5,000 kilograms (11,023 lb) into orbit and was built as part of NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract as part of the goal replace the Space Shuttle with privately owned and operated spacecraft to bring cargo and crews to the ISS. Orbital Sciences Corporation’s contract with NASA is worth US$1.9 billion, which will see two tests flights and eight visits to the ISS for a total of ten missions.
"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," added Bolden. "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.
The video below shows Sunday’s launch of the Antares rocket.
About the Author
David Szondy is a freelance writer based in Monroe, Washington. An award-winning playwright, he has contributed to Charged and iQ magazine and is the author of the website Tales of Future Past.
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Mass sImuLated payload - LOL - secret military more like...
paranoid often christopher? first launch new rocket, yeah lets put up SECRET stuff while everyone is watching on a untested platform instead of a yawn seen that launch.
Are you always that paranoid?
Nobody put a real payload on a first test vehicle. Although thinking about it it might be a cheap way to orbit cheap experiments.
The rocket people should ask around.
It is normal for a test payload to be included on the first 1 to 3 launches of a new vehicle. It usually consist of an instrument package to measure the environment that will be seen by future paying payloads. About half the time a substantial payload is flown essentially free, but this is at a substantial risk taken by the builder of the payload as failure of the first launches is very common. As the cost of a substantial payload often reaches into the $100 million range and insurance is not available reluctance of someone to place such an expensive peace of hardware at risk is understandable.
I did a little checking, the mass simulated payload does have the usual launch environment instrumentation. In addition 4 nano sats were included. They have a combined weight of 10 lb. It is also worth noting the inclusion of a payload on the test flight also brings additional risk to the launch vehicle manufacturer as the payload can cause the launch vehicle to fail. So the risk goes both ways. Often many organizations want the opportunity for a cut rate launch opportunity but the vehicle manufacturer can scarcely afford to risk having their launch appear to fail because of a poorly constructed payload.
Dominic From NASA
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