Wallops Test Rocket Launch Scrubbed - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Wallops Test Rocket Launch Scrubbed

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The Antares rocket is shown in vertical position at 4:27 p.m. Wednesday at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. (Photo: NASA) The Antares rocket is shown in vertical position at 4:27 p.m. Wednesday at the NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. (Photo: NASA)

ATLANTIC, Va. (WBOC/AP)- A private company contracted by NASA to make supply runs to the International Space Station scrubbed a Wednesday test launch of an unmanned rocket, saying a bundle of cables linked to the rocket's second stage apparently detached too early in blustery winds.
The towering Antares rocket had been scheduled to blast off Wednesday afternoon from Wallops Island on Virginia's Eastern Shore when the countdown clock was halted 12 minutes before a 5 p.m. launch window was to open.
Barron Benesky, a spokesman for Dulles-based Orbital Sciences Corp., said it was not immediately clear when officials would attempt a launch anew.
He said officials initially suspected winds had caused a premature separation of a bundled cord connected to the second stage of the rocket. But he said experts were investigating what happened and would release more details later.
Orbital officials had said earlier that low cloud cover hugging the Virginia coast was a concern Wednesday. Officials had already shortened the window for a possible launch from several hours to just 10 minutes on Wednesday while closely watching weather conditions.
The planned launch by the Washington area commercial firm was designed to test whether a practice payload could reach orbit and safely separate from the rocket.  Orbital executives have said they are conducting the tests as they prove their capability to carry out several supply runs they contracted for with NASA.
Orbital was one of two commercial companies, along with California-based competitor SpaceX, chosen to supply the space station by NASA, which ended its three-decade-old shuttle program in 2011.
SpaceX, based in Hawthorne, Calif., was awarded a $1.6 billion contract by NASA in 2006 to make a dozen missions to restock the space station. Orbital jumped into the mix in 2008 when it was awarded a $1.9 billion contract for eight deliveries.
SpaceX has connected with the space station three times, though only two of those deliveries occurred under its resupply contract. Its Dragon capsule is the only supply ship capable of two-way delivery
"We've been playing catch up, but we're about caught up," said Frank Culbertson, executive vice president and general manager of Orbital's Advanced Programs Group, had said recently as plans fo this week's test launch loomed. "By the end of next year we should have an additional four or five cargo missions under our belt, so we're going to be moving fast."
If ultimately successful in testing Antares, Orbital executives have said they hoped to launch a rocket this summer carrying its Cygnus cargo ship aloft to see whether it can safely dock with the space station. During the scheduled demonstration flight, the cargo ship would carry about 1,600 pounds of supplies.
Orbital is under contract to deliver about 44,000 pounds of supplies to the space station and plans to make about two deliveries per year. Its cargo ship will carry about 4,400 pounds worth of supplies on its first three missions and 5,600 pounds on its last five.
Unlike the SpaceX's Dragon capsule, the Orbital cargo ship is not designed to return with experiments or other items from the space station. Instead, plans call for filling its Cygnus ship with garbage that would be incinerated with the vessel upon re-entering Earth's atmosphere. That is also what Russian, European and Japanese cargo ships do.

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