Engineers at Orbital ATK’s Dulles headquarters had much to cheer about Monday night after the S.S. Alan Poindexter Cygnus spacecraft was delivered safely into Earth’s orbit following a launch from Virginia’s Wallops Island Spaceport.
The mission—Orbital’s sixth to send supplies to the International Space Station—was the first to use of Orbital’s next-generation Antares 230 rockets powered by RD-181 engines manufactured by Russia’s NPO Energomash.
On a clear fall evening, the craft’s 9-minute trip to orbit was visible to millions of people in the mid-Atlantic region as a bright orange glow ascending in the night sky. Liftoff happened at 7:45 p.m.
The unmanned Cygnus spacecraft is expected to arrive at the space station on Sunday.
Monday’s successful launch comes nearly two years after an Orbital rocket exploded just after liftoff, destroying the craft and damaging the launch infrastructure at Wallops Island. Orbital has a $1.9 billion contract for eight ISS resupply missions. Following the 2014 failure, the company launched two missions from Cape Canaveral in Florida while repairs were made to the Virginia facility.