Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket has successfully been launched into orbit. This makes Orbital Sciences the second company to start resupplying the ISS, after SpaceX.
Orbital Sciences has acquired a Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) contract for resupplying the ISS. It is the second private company to receive such a contract, after SpaceX. To fulfill this contract, the company needs a rocket, and the one they'll be using is the Antares. Over the past week, Orbital Sciences has made several attempts at getting the Anteres rocket into orbit. The launch from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia was scrubbed several times, meaning the launch didn't happen until Sunday evening. When it finally did launch however, the rocket entered into orbit 254 km above earth without a hitch.
The rocket is a medium-class two stage rocket, nearly 13 stories tall and designed to carry payloads of up to 6,500kg. On the test flight, the rocket was carrying a mock Cygnus supply ship, weighing in at 3800kg.
The Antares launch
The rocket's first stage, which is liquid fueled, lifted the rocket from the launchpad, propelling it to a velocity of 11 600km/h by the time the first stage separated. Then, at a velocity of 15 000 km/h and roughly 188 km above the Earth, the second stage ignited, sending the Antares to its final orbit, which it reached some 10 minutes after launch.
When in orbit, the rocket deployed it's payload, along with three nanosatellites by PhoneSat. The Phonesat satellites are some of the cheapest and easiest to build and contain smartphone technologies, including a Google Nexus One.
The next Antares launch will be a proper supply mission, and will carry a Cygnus supply vessel to the ISS. The launch is planned for June or July of this year.