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Private U.S. Rocket Launches On Resupply Mission To ISS

The Orbital ATK's Antares rocket blasts off from its Virginia launchpad on October 17.

A private U.S. company has launched a rocket carrying supplies for the International Space Station, two years after an explosion destroyed the company's launch facility.

The blastoff occurred on an island off the coast of the U.S. state of Virginia, unlike most U.S. rocket launches, which occur at NASA's famed Cape Canaveral facilities in Florida.

Its first stage manufactured in Ukraine, and powered by Russian-built engines, Orbital ATK's Antares rocket is carrying 5,000 pounds of supplies that will be delivered to the orbiting station in six days' time, once a new crew arrives.

On October 28, 2014, another Antares rocket was destroyed in a massive explosion at the Virginia facility.

The U.S. space agency NASA is increasingly relying on private companies to ferry supplies. Several companies are moving quickly to build private space tourist operations.

Since the U.S. space shuttle fleet was grounded in 2011, Russia's space agency Roscosmos has been the primary means for U.S. astronauts, and Russian cosmonauts, to get back and forth to the station.

With reporting by AP and AFP
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