Video: Rocket explodes seconds after liftoff
An unmanned Antares rocket exploded seconds after liftoff from a commercial launch pad in Virginia on Tuesday, marking the first accident since NASA turned to private operators to deliver cargo to the International Space Station.
Mumbai:An unmanned Antares rocket exploded seconds after liftoff from a commercial launch pad in Virginia on Tuesday, marking the first accident since NASA turned to private operators to deliver cargo to the International Space Station.
The 14-story rocket, built and launched by Orbital Sciences Corp, blasted off its seaside launch pad at the Wallops Flight Facility at 6:22 p.m. EDT/2222 GMT carrying a Cygnus cargo ship bound for the space station.
It appeared to burst into flames moments later, then plunged to the ground in a huge ball of fire and smoke, but authorities said no one was hurt. The six crew members in orbit aboard the space station - two NASA astronauts, one from the European Space Agency and three Russian cosmonauts - were informed of the accident, NASA spokesman Dan Huot said.
With a Russian cargo ship due to reach the space station on Wednesday shortly after a separate launch from Kazakhstan, the loss of the Cygnus vessel posed no immediate supply shortage for the orbiting team. "There was no cargo that was absolutely critical" aboard Cygnus, NASA Associate Administrator William Gerstenmaier said.
The White House said President Barack Obama also was briefed. Orbital Sciences stock fell 15.5 percent to a two-month low of $25.65 in after-hours trading.
The cause of the mishap was not immediately known, Huot said. He said there were no reports of any personnel in the vicinity of the explosion. Orbital Sciences said in a statement: "We've confirmed that all personnel have been accounted for. We have no injuries in the operation today."
The spacecraft was carrying "some classified cryptographic equipment, so we do need to maintain the area around the debris in a secure manner," said Mike Pinkston, the company's Antares program manager. The National Security Agency had no immediate comment on the classified equipment reported to be aboard the cargo ship.
NASA launch control said damage appeared to be limited to the launch facility and rocket. The Antares rocket has been launched successfully on four previous missions. "This has been a lot of hard work to get to this point," Orbital Sciences Executive Vice President Frank Culbertson told the launch team just before liftoff.
Footage of the launch broadcast on NASA TV showed the Antares rising slowly into the night sky as flames suddenly engulfed the rocket, from the bottom to the top, and the vehicle sank back downward in an enormous conflagration.