Washington: Orbital Sciences Corp launched the first flight of its unmanned Antares rocket today to the International Space Station, as NASA forges ahead with its plan to privatise US space missions.
The Cygnus capsule, hitched to Orbital Science`s Antares rocket, blasted off at 10:58 am (1458 GMT) from NASA`s Wallops Flight Facility off Virginia`s eastern coast, for a Sunday rendezvous with the ISS.
The first stage functioned a little more than four minutes before separating, after which the second-stage motors functioned for about two minutes and a half.
Cygnus then separated to reach Earth`s orbit, marking the success of the launch.
The payload separation was successful, a NASA commentator said on the US space agency`s live television feed. Cheers could be heard at mission control.
"That was just a beautiful launch," a NASA commentator said.
During this week`s mission, Cygnus will ferry about 1,600 pounds (725 kilograms) of food, clothing and cargo for the crew aboard the space station. It will remain docked to the ISS for a month.
Orbital Sciences has a USD 1.9-billion contract with NASA that requires the company to deliver freight to the ISS over the course of eight flights by the beginning of 2016.