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Associated Press
An Orbital Sciences Corp. Antares rocket launches Thursday from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Va.

Private firm rocket off to space station

– A privately launched supply ship rocketed toward the International Space Station on Thursday following a series of delays ranging from the cold to the sun.

Orbital Sciences Corp. launched its unmanned Antares rocket from Wallops Island, Va., containing a capsule packed with 3,000 pounds of equipment and experiments provided by NASA, as well as food.

Christmas presents also are on board for the six space station residents; the delivery is a month late.

The spacecraft, named Cygnus, is expected to reach the station Sunday.

The delivery had been delayed three times since December, most recently because of a strong solar storm.

Engineers initially feared solar radiation might cause the rocket to veer off course. But additional reviews Wednesday deemed it an acceptable risk.

Previous delays were due to space station repairs and frigid weather.

NASA is paying Orbital Sciences and the SpaceX company to restock the space station. The Orbital Sciences’ contract alone is worth $1.9 billion.

After arriving at the space station, Cygnus will be unloaded and then filled with trash and cut loose for a fiery re-entry in mid-February.

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