New US rocket blasts off for first test launch

A privately-owned rocket built in partnership with NASA to take cargo to the International Space Station has blasted off for its first test flight.

The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket
The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket Credit: Reuters

The 13-story Antares rocket took off from a launch pad in Virginia. Ten minutes later it deposited its payload - a 8,380-pound dummy capsule - into an orbit 158 miles above the Earth.

The team behind the rocket, Orbital Sciences and privately owned Space Exploration Technologies hold NASA contracts worth a combined £2 billion to fly cargo to the space station. NASA turned to commercial suppliers after retiring the space shuttles in 2011.

International Space Station Commander Chris Hadfield said: "Wahoo, that's super... Congratulations to all concerned. That bodes well for all of our futures."