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Space Station Resupply Rocket Explodes After Launch

An unmanned cargo rocket loaded with supplies for the International Space Station exploded just seconds after liftoff on Tuesday.

The Antares rocket, which was loaded with 5,055 pounds of supplies, equipment and science experiments, lifted off at 6:22 pm from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Shortly after liftoff, there was an explosion, the New York Times reported.

[quote text_size=”small” author=”– Frank L. Culbertson Jr” author_title=”Executive vice president of Orbital Sciences Corporation”]

The ascent stopped. There was some disassembly of the first stage, it looked like, and then it fell to earth.


Orbital, the maker of the rocket, first launched a 14-story-high Antares rocked in April 2013. A demonstration flight was conducted to the space station to show the capabilities of the rocket and cargo craft. Tuesday’s launch would have been the third of eight cargo missions under a $1.9 billion contract with NASA.

Orbital had purchased several engines that had been mothballed by Russia in the 1970s, the Washington Post reported. Earlier versions of the engines were designed to power Russia’s large N1 rockets into orbit, although all four launches of the N1 failed, leading the Soviet space program to abandon its attempts to put a man on the moon. Orbital insists the technology using refurbished Russian engines is sound and no better alternatives exist today.

The explosion, which occurred just six seconds after launch, destroyed hundreds of millions of dollars worth of equipment, which included everything from school science experiments to classified cryptographic technology.

Orbital’s technology has been ridiculed by rivals in recent years. There has also been growing criticism in Congress about NASA’s reliance on commercial partners to maintain the International Space Station and man’s presence in space, The Guardian reported.

On Wednesday, Russia successfully launched a supply mission from its Baikonur launch site in Kazakhstan. The Russian cargo ship Progress launched for the International Space Station on a mission to replace another vessel.

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