AFP - Orbital Sciences, one of two private US firms chosen by NASA to shuttle cargo to the International Space Station, launched a first test flight of its Antares rocket Sunday.


The launch of the two-stage launch vehicle -- 131 feet (40 meters) tall and 12.8 feet in diameter -- took place at 5:00 pm (2100 GMT) from the Wallops Flight Facility situated on the Eastern Shore of the US state of Virginia.

The launch had initially been planned for Wednesday but was called off 12 minutes before the firing up of the engines due to a minor technical problem. A second attempt on Saturday was scrapped due to strong wind.

A $1.9 billion contract requires Orbital Sciences to deliver freight to the ISS over the course of eight flights by the beginning of 2016.

As this is a test mission, Antares is not transporting the company's Cygnus capsule but rather a simulation of an equivalent payload.