After several delays, the private Orbital Sciences Corp. launched its Antares rocket from Wallops Island, Va. Thursday, bringing some 3,000 pounds of equipment, experiments and food for astronauts at the International Space Station.
The unmanned spaceship also carried belated Christmas presents for the six scientists in space, according to the Associated Press.
The blastoff had been delayed three times since December, including this week, because of a solar storm.
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The other delays were due to cold temperatures at Wallops Island and repairs at the space station. The mission is another sign of NASA's continued reliance on private contractors for space missions. Orbital Sciences and the SpaceX are both restocking the International Space Station.
The spaceship, called "Cygnus" will stay with the space station for 42 days once it reaches the laboratory later this month, according to the Orbital Sciences website
. Astronauts will load Cygnus with materials for disposal before it returns back to Earth.
Japanese astronaut Koichi Wakata tweeted Thursday from space that he cannot wait for the goodies on Cygnus.
Orbital Sciences' trip is the second to the space station. The first was a successful test run in September, according to the Associated Press. There are two more trips planned to the space station in 2014.
"Great way to start out the new year ... we're all smiles here," said Bill Wrobel, director of NASA's Wallops facility, told the Associated Press after Thursday's launch.
The rocket launches are still new to Virginia and Maryland residents.
Construction began on the space station in 1998. It received a four-year lifetime extension from the White House Wednesday, extending service until 2024.
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