Tuesday, 16 April 2013

NASA gives green light for critical Virginia rocket test launch this week

NASA gives green light for critical Virginia rocket test launch this week, NASA gave the green light on Tuesday (April 16) for a private company to proceed with a critical test launch of an unmanned rocket from Virginia that would eventually help carry supplies to the International Space Station, but the weather forecast could cause delays.

NASA said there's only a 45 percent chance weather conditions will allow Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles to launch its Antares rocket from Wallops Island as planned Wednesday. Orbital would try again Thursday if necessary.

The potential obstacles are low-cloud cover and a slight chance of thunderstorms, said John Dickerson, NASA's Wallops Flight Facility test director.

The company plans to launch the 131-foot-tall rocket with a gross weight of more than 617,000 pounds sometime between 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. EDT.

Antares would be the largest rocket to ever lift off from Wallops Island and could be visible in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and New York during the evening commute.

If successful in sending a practice payload into orbit, Orbital aims to send its cargo ship to dock with the International Space Station this summer on a test run.

Orbital and California-based SpaceX have contracted to make space station supply runs with NASA, which ended its shuttle program in 2011.

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