Orbital rocket blasts off on space
station cargo run
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[October 18, 2016]
By Irene Klotz
(Reuters) - An unmanned Antares rocket
owned by Orbital ATK Inc blasted off from Virginia on Monday with a
cargo ship for the International Space Station, marking the booster's
return to flight two years after a previous version exploded at liftoff.
The 14-story-tall rocket, powered by a pair of new Russian-made engines,
lifted off from Wallops Island, Virginia, at 7:45 p.m. EDT (2340 GMT), a
NASA TV broadcast showed. Launch was delayed five minutes to give the
team extra time to review their checklists, Orbital President Frank
Culbertson told reporters.
"Itís such a feeling of elation to see the vehicle take off. ... Iím
very happy to see Antares back," said Amanda Davis, Orbitalís director
of program engineering.
The rocket carried a Cygnus capsule loaded with 5,290 pounds (2,400 kg)
of food, supplies, equipment and science experiments for the space
station, a $100-billion laboratory in orbit about 250 miles (400 km)
The capsule is expected to reach the station on Sunday after lingering
several days in orbit to allow time for a Russian Soyuz capsule carrying
three new crew members to reach the outpost on Friday. The Soyuz is
slated to launch Wednesday from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The last Antares launch, on Oct. 28, 2014, ended in disaster a few
seconds after liftoff due to a problem with the boosterís refurbished,
Soviet-era engines. After the accident, Orbital sped up plans to replace
During the downtime, Orbital bought rides for two Cygnus cargo ships
aboard Atlas rockets, built and flown by United Launch Alliance, a
partnership of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co.
Orbital conducted a 30-second engine test firing of the Antares at the
Virginia launch pad on May 31, but had never flown the refurbished
rocket before Monday.
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The Orbital ATK Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard,
launches from Pad-0A, at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia,
October 17, 2016. Bill Ingalls/NASA/Handout via REUTERS
The mission became more crucial for the U.S. space agency after a
Sept. 1 accident destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket operated by Elon Muskís
SpaceX and a $200 million Israeli communications satellite.
The accident, which occurred while the rocket was being fueled for a
routine prelaunch test, has temporarily grounded SpaceX, the only
company apart from Orbital currently contracted by NASA to fly cargo
to the space station.
Private contractors for the cargo runs became necessary following
the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011.
With SpaceX sidelined, NASA said it added extra food, clothing,
laptop computers and spacesuit parts to the Cygnus cargo list.
(Reporting by Irene Klotz at Cape Canaveral, Florida; Editing by
Leslie Adler and Clarence Fernandez)
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