A privately owned rocket ship carrying experiments on weightlessness will blast off on a 15-minute mission Wednesday, the nation's first licensed commercial space flight.

The flight of Consort I, owned by Space Services Inc. of Washington, marks another stage in the private space research efforts that gained in significance after the 1986 Challenger tragedy."This launch you can probably trace to the Challenger disaster, because these experiments were hoped to be carried aboard the Challenger or future shuttles," said Walter Pennino, an investor and spokesman for Space Services.

The company launched the first privately financed space shot, Conestoga I, with a dummy payload in 1982. Since then, the federal government has begun licensing private launches, and Consort I is the first to get the green light.

Conestoga I proved private industry could launch spacecraft, and also showed that the government was unprepared for the new industry, Pennino said.