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Private space rocket lifts off for test mission in U.S.


09:57, April 22, 2013

WASHINGTON, April 21 (Xinhua) -- Orbital Sciences Corp., one of two private companies that currently hold a contract with U.S. space agency NASA to fly unmanned cargo missions to the International Space Station, launched its first Antares rocket on Sunday.

"Antares liftoff! Go baby go," said Virginia-based Orbital via its official Twitter account.

The Antares test flight from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) is the first of two missions Orbital is scheduled to conduct in 2013.

The company plans to carry out a full flight demonstration of its new Antares and Cygnus cargo delivery system to the space station around mid-year.

Orbital signed a 1.9-billion-U.S.-dollar deal with NASA to fly eight unmanned supply missions using the Antares and Cygnus cargo delivery system.

Another U.S. company, California-based SpaceX, made history when its Dragon spacecraft became the first commercial vehicle in history to successfully attach to the space station in a May 2012 test flight.

Dragon has already made three trips to the space station and it still needs to complete another ten to fulfill its 1.6-billion- dollar contract with NASA. The next SpaceX cargo run is scheduled for September.

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