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Supply ship with gifts, ants heads to space station

AP

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, Virginia, offering a view to nearby states along the East Coast. It successfully hoisted a capsule packed with 1,400 kg of equipment and experiments provided by NASA, as well as food and even some ants for an educational project. Christmas presents also are on board for the six space station residents; the delivery is a month late.

The spacecraft, named Cygnus, should reach the station Sunday.

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

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

This was Orbital Sciences’ second trip to the orbiting lab, but its first under the contract. The company conducted a successful test run last September. Two more trips are scheduled for this year. It launches from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. SpaceX flies from Cape Canaveral, and will make its fourth supply run next month.