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.

Source: NASA