* Marks booster's return to flight 2 yrs after liftoff blast
* Launch delayed 5 minutes to allow checklist review
* Capsule expected to reach space station on Sunday
(Adds reason for delay in paragraph 2)
By Irene Klotz
Oct 17 An unmanned Antares rocket owned by
Orbital ATK Inc blasted off from Virginia on Monday with
a cargo ship for the International Space Station, marking the
booster's return to flight two years after a previous version
exploded at liftoff.
The 14-story-tall rocket, powered by a pair of new
Russian-made engines, lifted off from Wallops Island, Virginia,
at 7:45 p.m. EDT (2340 GMT), a NASA TV broadcast showed. Launch
was delayed five minutes to give the team extra time to review
their checklists, Orbital President Frank Culbertson told
"It's such a feeling of elation to see the vehicle take off.
... I'm very happy to see Antares back," said Amanda Davis,
Orbital's director of program engineering.
The rocket carried a Cygnus capsule loaded with 5,290 pounds
(2,400 kg) of food, supplies, equipment and science experiments
for the space station, a $100-billion laboratory in orbit about
250 miles (400 km) above Earth.
The capsule is expected to reach the station on Sunday after
lingering several days in orbit to allow time for a Russian
Soyuz capsule carrying three new crew members to reach the
outpost on Friday. The Soyuz is slated to launch Wednesday from
the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.
The last Antares launch, on Oct. 28, 2014, ended in disaster
a few seconds after liftoff due to a problem with the booster's
refurbished, Soviet-era engines. After the accident, Orbital
sped up plans to replace the motors.
During the downtime, Orbital bought rides for two Cygnus
cargo ships aboard Atlas rockets, built and flown by United
Launch Alliance, a partnership of Lockheed Martin Corp
and Boeing Co.
Orbital conducted a 30-second engine test firing of the
Antares at the Virginia launch pad on May 31, but had never
flown the refurbished rocket before Monday.
The mission became more crucial for the U.S. space agency
after a Sept. 1 accident destroyed a Falcon 9 rocket operated by
Elon Musk's SpaceX and a $200 million Israeli communications
The accident, which occurred while the rocket was being
fueled for a routine prelaunch test, has temporarily grounded
SpaceX, the only company apart from Orbital currently contracted
by NASA to fly cargo to the space station.
Private contractors for the cargo runs became necessary
following the retirement of the space shuttles in 2011.
With SpaceX sidelined, NASA said it added extra food,
clothing, laptop computers and spacesuit parts to the Cygnus
(Reporting by Irene Klotz at Cape Canaveral, Florida; Editing
by Leslie Adler and Clarence Fernandez)