In a September full of test launches (Minotaur V and Epsilon), here’s the latest offering: Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus cargo craft on the Antares rocket making its first demonstration flight to the International Space Station. With this, Orbital Sciences aims to be the second private company cleared for cargo transfers to the ISS, after SpaceX.
I like the Antares rocket launches because we get camera views of stage separation. On the first Antares launch, we got camera of the payload fairing separation as well – a relative rarity – but we didn’t get that this time.
Here’s the video of today’s launch, which occurred at 7:58 a.m. PST:
The most interesting factoid about the Antares rocket is probably that the first stage uses two rockets salvaged and upgraded by Aerojet from the Soviet N-1 program – their failed moonshot attempt. Though the rockets were designed and built in the late 60s, they still have the second highest thrust-to-weight ratio of any surface-launch rocket in existence (a whopping 137), which is second only to SpaceX’s own Merlin 1D, which exceeds 150. So, no shame in using Soviet technology when it gets that kind of performance.
There was also an hour-long preview of the Cygnus mission, which NASAtelevision also kindly posted: