The PJ Tatler

NASA-Contracted Rocket Bound for Space Station Suffers 'Catastrophic Anomaly,' Explodes

A NASA-contracted rocket headed for the International Space Station carrying food and other needed supplies exploded upon liftoff from an island off the Virginia coast.

NASA said the Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket, on its third resupply mission, “suffered a catastrophic anomaly shortly after liftoff” at 6:22 p.m. EST.

“The Orbital Sciences team is executing its contingency procedures, securing the site and data, including all telemetry from the Antares launch vehicle and Cygnus spacecraft,” the space agency said in a blog post that was posting live updates from the launch.

“Before launch the Orbital team was not tracking any issues. No injuries have been reported, and Orbital reports that all personnel around  the Wallops Flight Facility launch site have been accounted for.”

The launch and explosion were carried live on NASA’s online TV.

The rocket was loaded with nearly 5,000 pounds of supplies and experiments and was the first night launch of an Antares rocket.

Cargo included an experiment to test pea shoot growth in space and equipment to study size, density and chemical composition of meteor dust.

Food made up more than 1,300 pounds of the cargo, and spacewalk equipment accounted for 145 pounds.

Fifteen pounds of books were also on board.

UPDATE 8:30 p.m. EST:  “This evening the President was briefed on the launch failure of the Antares rocket in Wallops, Virginia,” said deputy press secretary Eric Schultz. “The President was briefed by White House Deputy Chief of Staff Anita Decker Breckenridge and will continue to get updates as more information becomes available.”

UPDATE 10:30 p.m. EST: Sen. Bill Nelson (D-Fla.) tells CNN that he spoke to NASA and learned that  another rocket from Russia is going to launch soon with food and supplies.

“They’re not going to miss very much, even though it’s a setback,” Nelson said.

Associate Administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Directorate William Gerstenmaier said in a statement that the space agency is “disappointed,” but “we will continue to move forward toward the next attempt once we fully understand today’s mishap.”

“Orbital has demonstrated extraordinary capabilities in its first two missions to the station earlier this year, and we know they can replicate that success,” Gerstenmaier said. “Launching rockets is an incredibly difficult undertaking, and we learn from each success and each setback. Today’s launch attempt will not deter us from our work to expand our already successful capability to launch cargo from American shores to the International Space Station.”