Space launch firm Orbital Sciences (NYSE: ORB ) says it has successfully conducted an extended-duration "hot fire" test of the first-stage propulsion system of its Antares medium-lift rocket. Antares is Orbital's vehicle to be used to carry out supply missions to the International Space Station on behalf of NASA, which has a $1.9 billion contract with the company.
Orbital is on pace for two launches this year under NASA's Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS) Space Act Agreement. The company is also scheduled for eight resupply missions to the space station through 2016, which Orbital plans to begin late this year, as part of NASA's Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract.
With the test complete, Orbital Sciences' Antares Program Manager Mike Pinkston spoke in a company press release about the next step for the rocket, saying, "We will now turn our attention to the next major milestone for the Antares program, which is the inaugural flight of the rocket. I know that I speak for the entire Antares team when I say we are beyond excited to know that our newest rocket will take to the skies in just a matter of weeks."
The Antares rocket can lift up to 14,000 pounds into low-earth orbit and can deliver lighter payloads even higher.