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Stray plane forces last-minute space launch delay

A space launch has been aborted just moments before lift-off after a small aircraft strayed into the rocket's hazard area.

Commercial shipper Orbital ATK was within two minutes of launching its unmanned Antares rocket at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia when the aircraft appeared six miles offshore, flying at around 500ft.

It prompted the postponement of the launch, which will now take place on Sunday morning.

Orbital ATK's Antares rocket is set to carry a capsule holding 7,400 pounds of cargo to the International Space Station (ISS), supplying six astronauts with fresh fruit, vegetables, ice cream bars and equipment for experiments.

Image:The rocket is raised into position at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia

The cargo will help researchers conduct studies on how space's microgravity affects the E.coli bacteria's resistance to antibiotics.

"Bacterial antibiotic resistance may pose a danger to astronauts in microgravity, where the immune response is weakened," NASA said.

"Scientists believe that the results of this experiment could help design effective countermeasures to protect astronauts' health during long-duration human space missions."

We have confirmed that the aircraft that aborted today's launch attempt was a small aircraft flying at about 500ft approximately 6 miles offshore.

— Orbital ATK (@OrbitalATK) November 11, 2017

The rocket will also provide ISS astronauts with the materials to test high-speed communications between space and the Earth.

The mission will be the eighth for Orbital ATK, which has a $1.9bn (£1.44bn) contract with NASA to resupply the ISS over several years.

It will be the shipping firm's first launch from Virginia in more than a year – its last resupply mission used another company's rocket flying from Cape Canaveral, Florida.

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