A company contracted by the U.S. space agency NASA to deliver supplies to the International Space Station has successfully launched the first test flight of its Antares rocket.
Orbital Sciences Corporation declared the launch a success Sunday after the two-stage vehicle blasted off from the Eastern Shore of the U.S. state of Virginia while carrying a simulation payload.
Eventually, the private U.S. firm will use the Antares rocket to transport its Cygnus capsule payload to the ISS.
NASA officials say they are relying on the private sector to take over transportation to the orbiting space station so that the agency can focus on exploring deeper into the solar system with missions to an asteroid and to Mars.
NASA also is constructing the largest rocket ever built, called the Space Launch System, and the Orion capsule, a craft that can take astronauts 15 times farther than the space station.