The Antares A-One launch is scheduled for 5 p.m. Eastern Daylight Time today, and it'll be from NASA's Wallops Island launch site in Virginia. Orbital notes that this means if you're in Washington D.C. you might be able to see it shortly after liftoff.
Antares is a brand new two-stage commercial space mission rocket that's been partly funded by $1.9 billion from NASA's commercial ISS resupply budget. It's a companion system to SpaceX's historic Falcon rocket and Dragon capsule which made history by being the first non-government commercial company to reach orbit, and then the first to berth to the ISS.
Orbital has designed the rocket based on a long-standing experience with research, commercial and military rocket design. It has an optional third stage, can carry payloads over 5,000 kilos to Low Earth Orbit, and could be easily adapted for interplanetary space missions. Today it will just be launching a dummy mass to orbit to prove the tech works but two more launches to the ISS are planned for this year, one a qualification and check out flight, and one to deliver actual cargo.
Are you excited by the incredible pace of development in the brand new commercial space race? Would you ever consider paying for a ride--if you could afford it?
[Image via Orbital Sciences]