With only six seconds after it was launched, an unmanned rocket owned by Orbital Sciences Corporation exploded Tuesday, October 28 (Wednesday, October 29 in Manila), exploded in a giant fireball and plummeted back to Earth. The orbital rocket was launched to conduct a resupply mission to the International Space Station.
The National Aeronautics Space Administration (NASA) mission control in Houston said the Antares rocket suffered an accident shortly after lift-off which is described as a “catastrophic anomaly.”
NASA reported that enveloped in flames, the rocket collapsed to the ground, as a cloud of dark gray smoke rose from the wreckage.
Immediately after the incident, investigators rushed to the scene,secured the perimeter of the area and restricted any outside interviews of witnesses or staff, citing classified equipment that had been aboard the spacecraft.
Meanwhile, NASA launch control said damage appeared to be limited to the launch facility and rocket. Earlier, the Antares rocket has been launched successfully on four previous missions.
Dan Huot, NASA mission commentator said the cause of the accident was not immediately known as there were no reports of any personnel within the vicinity of the explosion.
However, an Accomack County Sheriff’s spokeswoman revealed that all personnel are accounted for.
In an official statement, the Orbital Sciences said there were no recorded injuries in the operation. Orbital Sciences, which is based in Virginia, is one of two companies hired by NASA to fly cargo to the station after the space shuttles were retired. Tuesday’s planned flight was to be the third of eight under the company’s $1.9 billion contract.
The second U.S. supply line to the station, on the other hand, is run by privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, which is in-charge with the preparation of its fourth flight under a separate $1.6 billion NASA contract.
With a new and more powerful upper-stage engine, the Antares rocket launched on Tuesday carried a Cygnus spacecraft packed with 5,055 pounds (2,293 kg) that comprised of supplies, science experiments and equipment which is 15 percent more than the previous conducted missions.
Aside from food, supplies and equipment, the Cygnus spacecraft was also loaded with more than 1,600 pounds (725 kg) of science experiments, including an investigation to chemically analyze meteors.
According to reports, the Cygnus also carried a prototype satellite owned by Redmond, Washington-based start-up Planetary Resources Inc., which is developing technology to mine asteroids.