A company contracted by Nasa to deliver supplies to the International Space Station has successfully launched a rocket in a test of its ability to send a cargo ship into space.
The unmanned Antares rocket blasted off from Wallops Island on Virginia's Eastern Shore. About 10 minutes after the launch, Orbital Sciences Corp of Dulles declared the test a success after observing a practice payload reach orbit and safely separate from the rocket.
The suburban Washington DC company is aiming to launch a rocket carrying its Cygnus cargo ship this summer to dock with the station. If successful, Orbital aims to make the first of eight contracted deliveries in the autumn.
Nasa is using two companies to deliver space station supplies after ending its shuttle programme in 2011. California-based SpaceX completed its third trip to the International Space Station last month.