An unmanned Orbital Sciences’ rocket suffered a catastrophic failure six seconds after taking off, leading to the destruction of the rocket. The NASA lead Antares rocket launched on Tuesday in Virginia, at the Wallops Flight Facility. The spacecraft was full of scientific equipment and supplies for the International Space Station (ISS), part of routine trip Orbital Sciences will conduct alongside NASA.
Not much is known about why the rocket exploded, but NASA’s early investigation points to damage on the launchpad. Orbital Sciences will be running a full investigation – all of the cargo has been destroyed with the explosion, a big loss for several companies. Orbital Sciences has a $1.9 billion contract with NASA to send cargo up to the ISS, until 2016. This is not a good first attempt, and two other cargo rockets are set to fly to the ISS, one from Russia and the other from SpaceX in December.
Astronauts up on the ISS are okay for supplies, but some of the experiments and technology on board the Antares rocket would have given scientists more equipment to work with while in space, this will be further delayed with the destruction of the cargo.
This is not the rocket to be destroyed in flight, the U.S. and China have suffered two large casualties over the past sixty years. CEO of SpaceX Elon Musk has said many more will die on the mission to space and eventually to Mars – with the final mission to colonize the red planet.
NASA has not commented about Orbital Sciences’ contract with the space agency and whether they will look to cancel further missions.