Yesterday evening at 6:22 p.m. EDT, a $200-million Orbital Sciences rocket exploded within seconds of liftoff from a launchpad in Virginia.
According to the company, the unmanned Antares rocket was carrying a Cygnus spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS).
It was not carrying any vital supplies for those living at the space station but rather cargo, supplies and scientific experiments. There are sufficient food supplies for the ISS crew until next spring.
“It is far too early to know the details of what happened,” said a Orbital Sciences spokesperson in a statement. “As we begin to gather information our primary concern lies with the ongoing safety and security of those involved in our response and recovery operations.”
A 2,253 square kilometre area around the launch pad has been cordoned off as part of the regulated NASA buffer area in the event of a “vehicle anomaly.”
Since the end of the space shuttle vehicle program, NASA has depended on private contractors to provide supplies and cargo for the crew of the ISS. It signed a $1.9-billion eight cargo spacecraft launch with Orbital Sciences: two deliveries have been fulfilled successfully while yesterday’s failure was the third.
Earlier this morning, a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying a U.S. Air Force GPS IIF-8 satellite successfully launched from the Kennedy Space Station at Cape Canaveral.
Feature Image: NASA