Antares lifts off, headed to the ISS

Image courtesy of NASA

Yesterday, Orbital Sciences succeeded in launching its first ISS resupply spacecraft, the Cygnus. It is the second successful launch from Orbital Sciences this month (the first one was a Minotaur-5, carrying the LADEE Moon orbiter), and the second (and successful) launch of their Antares rocket, an “hybrid” rocket: while the first stage is liquid-fueld (RP-1 kerosene and liquid oxygen), the second stage, made by ATK, is a solid-rocket motor.

This isn’t, by far, the second launch from Orbital Sciences, but it is one of their most critical ones: whereas all their other launch vehicle are based on proven ICBMs, Antares is a complete new design.

After five days of tests in orbit, the Cygnus is to become the second commercial spacecraft to berth with the ISS, after SpaceX’x Dragon a bit more than a year ago.