After an eight-month hiatus, a U.S. supply ship is en-route to the International Space Station following Sunday's successful liftoff of an Orbital ATK Cygnus cargo ship aboard a hired Atlas 5 rocket.
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Orbital has been out of the station cargo launch business since its Antares rocket exploded seconds after launch on Oct. 28, 2014.
The company grounded the rocket to replace its troubled Soviet-era main engines and hopes to return the refurbished booster to flight in May. Meanwhile, Orbital purchased a pair of Atlas 5 rocket rides from United Launch Alliance to deliver its next two Cygnus capsules into orbit.
On Sunday, the 194-foot tall Atlas rocket, did just that, blazing through cloudy skies over its seaside Florida launch pad as it headed into space. Launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station occurred at 4:44 pm. EST following three days of delays due to rain and high winds.
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"Thank you all very much," Frank Culbertson, president of Orbital's Space Systems Group, told the team after Cygnus was safely deposited into orbit.
The capsule, which is loaded with more than 7,700 pounds of food, clothing, science experiments and other equipment, is due to arrive at the station on Wednesday.
Orbital is one of two companies hired by NASA to fly cargo to the station after the space shuttles were retired in 2011. The second company, SpaceX, also has been grounded by a launch accident and hopes to resume flying this month.