WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. - After five years of planning and five months since the first successful test launch, the Antares rocket, complete with its Cygnus spacecraft payload is on its way up to the International Space Station.
With a successful launch, Orbital Sciences becomes the second private-sector business to send cargo to the International Space Station, follwing suit of SpaceX, which sent its Falcon 9 rocket carrying its Dragon spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida in October 2012.
The Cygnus payload, which is carrying 1,300 pounds of food, clothing and replacement equipment for the space station makes its long awaited trip up.
"Having two providers gives [NASA] some bandwidth and some back up capabilities," Orbital Sciences mission director Frank Culbertson said. "If one of us had a problem, the other one can start filling in."
"With our little bit of financial assistance technical assistance, bring a new product to market and create a thriving aerospace industry," said Allen Lindenmoyer, a program manager for the Commercial Crew and Cargo Program office at NASA Johnson Space Center.
In a phone interview with WMDT, Sen. Barbara Mikulski (D-Md.) spoke about the mission and its importance to the Eastern Shore and private-sector businesses.
"There will be cargo liftoffs with regularity out of Wallops," said Mikulski. "This in itself will sustain jobs. It's jobs in the Eastern Shore. We estimate about 500. It advances our scientific agenda for utilizing the space station. And, we can say goodbye to our independence of the Russians."
As the rocket trailed off into the distant sky and into orbit, back on ground, fans and staff celebrate a launch that only took one try.
Unlike the initial launch, with a smile, Culbertson said he didn't want "to go through [scrubbing the launch]" more than needed.
Barb Burak, who came down to Wallops Island from southern New Jersey with her husband, Bill, said she had never seen a launch in person.
"Its something exciting," said Burak. "It should be on everybody's bucket list."
The only hiccup, according to Culbertson, came when they moved several residents on the island out of their homes, just in case something went wrong.
Luckily, nothing did.
The next step isgetting that cargo up to the space station, which Culbertson says will take about four days. Then, astronauts can start unloading all those supplies and wait for the next batch to come.
With their current contract, Orbital Sciences will launch eight more supply missions to the ISS. Culbertson says there may be one more launch at the end of the year and officials are looking at launch dates between December 8th-21st.