The NASA contract pays Orbital $1.9 billion to make eight unmanned supply flights to the space station using Antares and a spacecraft called Cygnus. The agency also signed a $1.6 billion deal with California-based SpaceX for 12 missions with its Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket.
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Aerospace firm Orbital Sciences Corp. began developing Antares in earnest in 2008, when the company scored a NASA contract to fly robotic cargo missions to the International Space Station. Five years later, after a name change and a series of delays, the rocket is now ready to blast off Wednesday (April 17) afternoon from a newly refurbished launchpad at Virginia's Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS).
"We've worked really hard over the last several years to go develop this new launch vehicle and a new launch site," said Mark Pieczynski, vice president of business development for Orbital's launch systems group. "We've got a great deal of confidence that our launch vehicle and the launch site are both ready to demonstrate their capabilities."
Antares is slated to blast off at 5 p.m. EDT (2100 GMT) Wednesday. You can watch the launch webcast live here at SPACE.com, courtesy of NASA.
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