TIME space

Private Rocket Launches Mission to Space Station After Delays

Cygnus Antares launch was postponed by wintery weather and Sun storms

Commercial space firm Orbital Sciences launched its first cargo mission to the International Space Station Thursday after several weeks of delays.

Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus Antares rocket launched at 1:07 p.m. ET with a space capsule carrying 2,780 pounds of ISS-bound gear. The launch, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the Virginia coast, was held up because of malfunctions aboard the space station, frigid winter weather on Earth and risks posed by solar storms.

The flight is Orbital Sciences’ first cargo mission to the space station after it sent a successful empty test capsule to the ISS last September. NASA has contracted with Orbital Sciences for eight ISS deliveries to the tune of $1.9 billion in total.

SpaceX, a different private space firm launched by PayPal billionaire Elon Musk, has already sent two successful cargo resupply missions to the ISS. It has a $1.6 billion NASA contract for 12 deliveries in total, including the two it’s already completed.

The White House announced Wednesday that it supports extending the ISS program through at least 2024.

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