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Unmanned Cargo Craft Launched to Space Station

The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket launches with the Cygnus spacecraft on board from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, July 13, 2014.

A private U.S. company has launched an unmanned cargo carrier to resupply the astronauts living aboard the International Space Station (ISS).

Orbital Sciences Corporation launched its Cygnus cargo spacecraft on an Antares rocket at midday Sunday from Wallops Island, Virginia.

The spacecraft is packed with 1,600 kilograms of food, equipment, science experiments and tools.

The launch is the second of eight missions the company has contracted with the U.S. space agency, NASA.

The Cygnus is to arrive at the station Wednesday.

Private companies, Orbital Sciences and SpaceX, have contracted with NASA for multiple missions to carry supplies to the ISS.

NASA lost its ability to reach the space station after the 30-year space shuttle program ended in 2011.

Europe and Russia also have spaceships to carry equipment and provisions to the research outpost.

Astronauts are launched three at a time to the space station aboard Russia's Soyuz spacecraft, at a cost of $70.7 million each.

Several U.S. companies are competing to build the crew vehicle that will restore U.S. access to the station in the next few years.