WASHINGTON, September 18 (RIA Novosti) – A rocket and spacecraft developed by a private US company blasted off from a NASA launch pad Wednesday morning on a mission to deliver about 1,300 pounds (589 kilograms) of cargo to the International Space Station (ISS).
The Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft, developed by Orbital Sciences, was launched at 10:58 a.m. (1458 GMT) from Virginia.
The demonstration mission is the first operational flight in space for the Cygnus spacecraft, Virginia-based Orbital Sciences said.
If the mission is successful, the company will begin regular resupply missions to the ISS.
Cygnus separated from the Antares rocket around 10 minutes after liftoff in what NASA called “a beautiful mission so far.”
Once Cygnus goes into orbit, a pair of solar array wings will deploy from the base of the cylindrical spacecraft and will go through a series of checks and evaluations to make sure all systems are ready to approach the ISS.
A rendezvous with the orbiting outpost is scheduled for Sunday. Astronauts aboard the ISS will use the station’s arm to capture Cygnus and then install it on the bottom side of the station’s Harmony module.
Orbital Sciences was selected in 2008 to work with NASA on the space agency’s Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) program, which helps US companies develop privately operated, cost-effective and safe space transportation systems.
Another COTS partner company, Space Exploration Technologies (SpaceX), began working with NASA in 2006, and after a successful test flight in 2012, began flying regular cargo missions to the space station.