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Liftoff! NASA successfully returns Antares rocket to space

The Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo spacecraft achieved liftoff at 4:45 p.m. PT Monday, followed by a successful separation.

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Photo by NASA/Bill Ingalls

After a 24-hour launch postponement, the Cygnus cargo spacecraft is finally on its way to the International Space Station. Carrying a cargo of over 5,100 pounds (2,313 kilograms) of scientific equipment, food, supplies and hardware, the Cygnus craft, named S.S. Alan G. Poindexter in honour of former astronaut and Naval Aviator Captain Alan Poindexter, is scheduled to arrive at the ISS on Sunday, October 23.

The mission, which was delayed due to a cable failure on Sunday, October 16, was particularly fraught, representing a return to flight after an October 2014 engine failure that saw the spacecraft fall back down to Earth and explode. Orbital ATK scrapped the old AJ26 engine, a refurbished Kuznetsov NK-33 originally built by the Soviet Union in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The new two-stage rocket was instead powered by the Energomash RD-181.

The rocket launched from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia at 4:45 PT Monday. It has successfully separated, and the SS Alan G Poindexter is on its way to the ISS. A live commentary from NASA will resume at 6:05 p.m. PT, in time for the deployment of the craft's solar array. You can tune in on NASA TV.

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