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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Successful launch for rocket Antares at NASA's Wallops

With a gut-rumbling growl, the Antares rocket vaulted from the launch pad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Sunday afternoon, finally completing the test flight of a prototype booster designed to ship cargo to the International Space Station.

Two previous launch attempts in the last five days had been scrubbed, with Dulles-based rocket-maker Orbital Sciences Corp. citing a technical glitch and risky upper-level winds.

But the third time proved the charm. At 5 p.m., the most powerful rocket ever launched from Wallops roared skyward, trailing a jet of bright, liquid-fueled flame and white smoke.

"You'll be able to see it, hear it and feel it," Dan Thomson, incoming director of the NASA Visitor Center, had said earlier as the center's parking lot filled with visitors eager to witness the maiden voyage of a booster that state officials hope will catapult the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on Wallops Island into a world-class hub of commercial space activity.

Orbital has a $1.9 billion NASA contract to make eight resupply missions to the space station, all of them slated to launch from MARS.

As the 132-foot rocket rose, flight controllers monitored its progress in a live-stream NASA broadcast from ignition to phase 2 separation to achieving orbit to payload separation, accompanied by bursts of applause at each successful stage.

Finally the flight controller announced, "End of mission. … All stations, we have a successful orbit."

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