A second company hired by NASA to fly cargo to the International Space Station sailed through the first leg of its debut run, with a successful liftoff on Wednesday from a new commercial spaceport in Virginia.
Orbital Sciences Corp. hopes to follow Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, in reaching the station, with docking of its Cygnus cargo ship slated for Sunday.
Orbital's 13-story tall Antares rocket, making just its second flight, lifted off at 10:58 a.m. ET from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, a commercial enclave carved out from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Va.
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Ten minutes later, the Cygnus separated from the rocket, spurring a burst of cheers and applause from flight controllers.
"I don't really think that could have gone much better," said NASA mission commentator Kyle Herring.
Over the next four days, Cygnus will demonstrate its ability to maneuver in orbit and communicate with ground control teams and astronauts aboard the station. If all goes as planned, astronauts will use the station's robot arm to pluck the capsule from orbit on Sunday and attach it to a berthing port. Cygnus is expected to remain docked at the station until Oct. 22.