Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket returned to flight Oct. 17 with a successful evening launch from Virginia’s Eastern Shore, a beacon visible for hundreds of miles along the U.S. East Coast as the 13-story rocket set course for a cargo delivery to the International Space Station.
The liftoff from launch pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, a launch complex located at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, occurred at 7:45 p.m. EDT (2345 GMT) on Oct. 17 with a Cygnus supply ship carrying more than 5,100 pounds of cargo, provisions and experiments to the space station.
It was the first launch of Orbital ATK’s commercially-developed Antares booster since a launch failure in October 2014 grounded the rocket. The company redesigned the rocket’s first stage to accommodate new RD-181 engines to replace the decades-old AJ26 engines blamed for the 2014 launch accident.
Orbital ATK has a multibillion-dollar contract with NASA to send logistics to the space station. The company is on the hook for at least 17 resupply missions through 2024 — plus contract options for more — and this week’s launch was the start of the sixth Cygnus operational cargo flight.
The Cygnus spacecraft is due to arrive at the space station Sunday with an automated approach culminating in the ship’s grapple by the research lab’s robotic arm at 7:05 a.m. EDT (1105 GMT).
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