ATLANTIC, Va. — A company contracted by NASA to deliver supplies to the International Space Station successfully launched a rocket on Sunday in a test of its ability to send a cargo ship aloft.
About 10 minutes after the launch from Wallops Island on Virginia's Eastern Shore, Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles declared the test a success after observing a practice payload reach orbit and safely separate from the rocket.
The launch came after two previous attempts were scrubbed. A data cord that was connected to the rocket's second stage came loose just minutes before the rocket was set to lift off Wednesday, and company officials said they were easily able to fix the problem. A second attempt Saturday was scrubbed because of wind.
"It certainly was an amazing achievement for Orbital today, a great day for NASA and another historical day for commercial spaceflight in America," said Alan Lindenmoyer, manager of NASA's commercial crew and cargo program.
The company from the Washington suburb of Dulles was one of two, along with California-based competitor SpaceX, chosen to supply the space station after NASA ended its three-decade-old shuttle program in 2011. The space agency turned to private companies for the job, saying it would focus on getting manned flights to asteroids and to Mars.
SpaceX has connected with the space station three times. This summer, Orbital plans to launch a rocket carrying its Cygnus cargo ship to see whether it can safely dock with the space station.