Orbital Science Corps. Antares rocket completed its first successful test launch today after seeing a series of complications over the last few days. Orbital attempted to test launch the rocket last Wednesday, however, a data cable located at the upper stage of the rocket detached prematurely. It was then rescheduled over and over due to the high winds present at the launch site. Luckily today, everything was cooperating with the test launch.
Antares was able to reach its target altitude of 155 miles above earth within 10 minutes. It carried with it a dummy capsule weighing about 8,377 pounds. The dummy was meant to represent that actual weight of the Cygnus capsule. Along with the test launch, Antares successfully released three small-sized Phonesat satellites, Alexander, Graham and Bell, into orbit. These satellites were part of an experiment for NASA's Ames Research Center.
Now that Orbital has finally completed its test launch, it plans on doing two more launches this year. The first launch is expected to come around June, and will be the Orbital's first cargo fight to the International Space Station. The second launch is expected to happen sometime in November. The Cygnus capsule is expected to bring about 5,952 pounds of supplies to the ISS when it launches in November.
Orbital is one of two private companies contracted by NASA to bring cargo to the ISS. It has a $1.9 billion contract with NASA, and is expected to complete 8 cargo missions. The other company, SpaceX, has a $1.6 billion contract with NASA, and has already completed 2 out of 12 of its cargo missions. NASA stated that it enlisted the help of both these companies because it didn't want to give one company the monopoly on space cargo deliveries. Congratulations to Orbital. We're looking forward to its future launches.