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Cygnus cargo ship launches to ISS

It takes six months and 40 people to assemble an Antares rocket (AFP Photo/Joel KOWSKY)

Wallops Flight Facility (United States) (AFP) - An unmanned Cygnus cargo ship blasted off Saturday toward the International Space Station, marking the second supply mission in 24 hours destined to carry food and supplies to the astronauts living in space.

An Antares rocket operated by Northrop Grumman lit up the night sky at 4:01 am (0901 GMT) as it propelled the craft loaded with 7,400 pounds (3,350 kilograms) of gear into space.

On Friday, a Russian Soyuz rocket launched its first cargo mission to the space station since a Soyuz rocket carrying astronauts failed last month.

The successful liftoff of the Progress cargo craft toward the orbiting outpost was seen as a rehearsal for the next crewed mission on December 3.

That flight will carry Russian cosmonaut Oleg Kononenko, Canadian astronaut David Saint-Jacques, and NASA's Anne McClain to the ISS.

Since the retirement of the US space shuttle program in 2011, Russia has the only nation capable of sending people to space.

During the aborted launch on October 11, Russian cosmonaut Aleksey Ovchinin and US astronaut Nick Hague made an emergency landing and escaped unharmed.

It was the first such incident in the history of post-Soviet space travel.

The Russian cargo ship is scheduled to dock at the space station on Sunday, followed by the Cygnus on Monday, NASA said.