Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket lifting off Nasa's Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia

Orbital Sciences celebrates second successful launch

Orbital Sciences has successfully sent its Cygnus cargo ship on a second journey to deliver supplies to the International Space Station.

The Cygnus capsule, positioned on top of Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket, blasted off from a seaside launch pad in Virginia on Sunday afternoon.

The Cygnus spaceship, produced jointly by Europe’s Thales Alenia Space and Orbital Sciences, will deliver more than 1,660kg of food, science equipment and other supplies to the orbital outpost.

The capsule is expected to dock at the ISS on Wednesday, which will mark the completion of its second mission for Nasa, part of a $1.9bn contract.

Orbital Sciences made its first cargo run to the station in January, becoming only the second commercial provider of space transportation services for Nasa, after its rival SpaceX. Unlike SpaceX, who has already established itself as a rising star in the commercial satellite launch market, Orbital Science has not yet announced other customers for its medium-lift Antares rocket. The two-stage booster relies on Russian-built AJ-26 engines to power its first stage.

Orbital Sciences named the Cygnus ship launched on Sunday the SS Janice Voss, a tribute to Voss, a five-time shuttle astronaut and former Orbital Sciences engineer who died of breast cancer in 2012.

The capsule is expected to remain berthed at the space station for about a month. Once unloaded, it will be filled with garbage and items no longer needed by the station crew and redirected into the atmosphere for incineration.

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