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Rocket Test Flight Aborted at NASA

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A test flight of a commercial rocket designed to resupply the International Space Station has been scrubbed over technical problems.

The Virginia-based company Orbital Sciences Corporation had planned to launch its Antares rocket from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's Atlantic shore Wednesday, but the launch was aborted about 12 minutes before the planned liftoff.

The 40-meter tall Antares rocket, a two-stage booster, was built with reconditioned U.S. and Russian rocket systems by Orbital Sciences Corporation. Orbital Tweeted that the issue was an issue with the second stage of the rocket.

The firm has contracted with the U.S. space agency NASA to ferry cargo and eventually astronauts to the ISS, using the company's robotic Cygnus space module.

When Antares does launch, it will be carrying only a dummy payload to simulate the weight of the Cygnus module, along with several small NASA satellites, on a mission meant primarily to test the booster's performance.  The payload is intended to achieve Earth orbit, but there will be no rendezvous with the Space Station.  That is scheduled for later this year in a demonstration flight to test the maneuverability of the Cygnus spacecraft, which is designed to dock with the ISS.

Orbital's Antares rocket will be the biggest ever to lift off from NASA's 68-year old Wallops Flight Facility, which has traditionally been used for smaller research rockets.  The spaceport is located on Virginia's Atlantic coast about 270 kilometers east of Washington, D.C.  

Orbital is the second U.S. company to partner with NASA to resupply the space station since the termination of the U.S. space shuttle program nearly two years ago. The first company, Space X, has already completed two successful supply missions to the orbiting laboratory under its $1.6 billion contract with NASA, launching its Falcon rocket from a Florida launchpad to deliver cargo aboard its reusable Dragon capsule.

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