An unmanned cargo rocket carrying supplies to the International Space Station exploded seconds after liftoff Tuesday night.
The Antares rocket, carrying 5,055 pounds of supplies, science experiments and equipment, lifted off on schedule at 6:22 p.m. Eastern time from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia. No issues arose during the countdown.
Six seconds later, there was a flash of an explosion, and the rocket fell back to the launching pad.
The flight was the third by Orbital Sciences Corp. of Vienna, Va., part of a program in which NASA has hired private companies to ferry cargo to the space station. Orbital has a $1.9 billion contract for eight flights.
A second company, Space Explorations Corp. of Hawthorne, Calif., better known as SpaceX, has successfully flown four cargo missions to the space station.
By hiring private companies, NASA hoped to reduce costs and spur a new commercial space agency and has taken a similar approach toward launching its astronauts in the future. With less bureaucratic meddling from NASA, the hope was that companies would operate more efficiently and quickly.
Last month, NASA awarded contracts to SpaceX and Boeing to take astronauts to the space station beginning as early as 2017.
However, the failure of the Orbital rocket is likely to raise questions whether NASA has done enough to ensure the reliability of the rockets.
The launching was originally scheduled for Monday but was called off because of a boat offshore along the rocket’s flight path. Under launch rules, that area must be cleared to ensure safety.
source: nytimes.com, worldnews-watcher.blogspot.com