NASA commercial space partner Orbital Sciences
Corporation Sunday launched its Antares rocket at 5 p.m. EDT from the
new Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A at the agency’s Wallops
Flight Facility in Virginia.
The test flight was the first launch from the pad at Wallops and was
the first flight of Antares, which delivered the equivalent mass of a
spacecraft, a so-called mass simulated payload, into Earth’s orbit.
“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. 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
“President Obama has presented a budget for next year that ensures the
United States will remain the world leader in space exploration, and
a critical part of this budget is the funding needed to advance
NASA’s commercial space initiative. In order to stop outsourcing
American space launches, we need to have the President’s budget
enacted. It’s a budget that’s good for our economy, good for the U.S.
Space program — and good for American taxpayers.”
The test of the Antares launch system began with the rocket’s rollout
and placement on the launch pad April 6, and culminated with the
separation of the mass simulator payload from the rocket.
The completed flight paves the way for a demonstration mission by
Orbital to resupply the space station later this year. Antares will
launch experiments and supplies to the orbiting laboratory carried
aboard the company’s new Cygnus cargo spacecraft through NASA’s
Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract.
“Today’s successful test flight of Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket
from the spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia, demonstrates an
additional private space-launch capability for the United States and
lays the groundwork for the first Antares cargo mission to the
International Space Station later this year,” said John Holdren,
director of the Office of Science and Technology Policy. “The growing
potential of America’s commercial space industry and NASA’s use of
public-private partnerships are central to President Obama’s strategy
to ensure U.S. leadership in space exploration while pushing the
bounds of scientific discovery and innovation in the 21st century.
With NASA focusing on the challenging and exciting task of sending
humans deeper into space than ever before, private companies will be
crucial in taking the baton for American cargo and crew launches into
“I congratulate Orbital Sciences and the NASA teams at Wallops, and
look forward to more groundbreaking missions in the months and years
Orbital is building and testing its Antares rocket and Cygnus
spacecraft under NASA’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services
(COTS) program. After successful completion of a COTS demonstration
mission to the station, Orbital will begin conducting eight planned
cargo resupply flights to the orbiting laboratory through NASA’s $1.9
billion CRS contract with the company.
NASA initiatives, such as COTS, are helping to develop a robust U.S.
commercial space transportation industry with the goal of achieving
safe, reliable and cost-effective transportation to and from the
International Space Station and low-Earth orbit. NASA’s Commercial
Crew Program also is working with commercial space partners to
develop capabilities to launch U.S. astronauts from American soil in
the next few years.
For more information about the upcoming Orbital test flights, and
links to NASA’s COTS and Commercial Crew programs, visit:
For information on Orbital’s Antares launch vehicle, visit: