Last week, Orbital Sciences completed the first launch of its Antares rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) Pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Eastern Shore of Virginia.
This first launch is a positive outcome of the public-private partnership between Orbital Sciences and the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority (VCSFA). The two have partnered since 2008 to develop and improve Pad 0A, the liquid-fuel-capable launch facility at MARS.
As a test flight, the purpose of this mission was to launch the Antares rocket and deliver a payload similar in mass to the Cygnus spacecraft into the Earth’s orbit. In addition, the mission also launched three smartphones into orbit to test them for use as satellites.
The test flight is the first of 10 Antares missions scheduled from MARS. Orbital Sciences will next perform a demonstration mission, followed by eight resupply missions, delivering cargo to the International Space Station.
As part of the new era of space exploration in the U.S., NASA is increasingly relying on corporate partners through its Commercial Orbital Transportation Services program. In December 2008, NASA awarded Orbital Sciences a $1.9 billion Commercial Resupply Services contract to complete the eight resupply missions.
Through MARS, Virginia offers one of only four commercial sites authorized by the FAA for orbital space launches. MARS provides safer and lower cost access to space with an ideal trajectory for earth orbit insertion.
Virginia’s strategic location, high-tech workforce, and strong business environment continue to attract the aerospace industry. To learn why more than 230 aerospace companies call Virginia home, click here.
A view of the first Antares rocket launch from MARS at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, courtesy of the Virginia Commercial Space Flight Authority.