NASA Rocket Explodes After Launch

Before the launch. (And subsequent explosion.)
Before the launch. (And subsequent explosion.)
Photo from NASA

Well, it looks like the astronauts will have to wait a little longer for their snacks and supplies. An unmanned NASA rocket exploded shortly after launching on Tuesday evening.

The rocket, an unmanned cargo spacecraft that was slated to dock at the International Space Station, exploded roughly six seconds after the launch at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia.

The launch was originally scheduled to take place Monday but was rescheduled to Tuesday because of a boat down range in the trajectory of where the Orbital's Antares rocket would have flown, according to a NASA release.

But on Tuesday, it blew up.

The spacecraft was produced by Orbital Sciences Commercial. NASA has been using Orbital and SpaceX to keep the ISS fully stocked since retiring the space shuttle. This is the first "mishap" that has occurred since NASA made the cargo transport deals. This was the third Orbital launch and would have toted 5,000 pounds of gear for the six people living on the space station, according to an Associated Press report.

The craft was originally supposed to take all of the following to the space station:

Orbital Sciences Corporation's third contracted cargo resupply mission with NASA to the International Space Station will deliver almost 5,000 pounds of science and research, crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbital laboratory and its crew. The scientific investigations Cygnus will transport include a study to enable the first spacebased observations of meteors entering Earth's atmosphere, a multitude of student investigations covering topics such as the effects of microgravity on plant growth and the rates of milk spoilage in space and international research including a study to determine how blood flow from the brain to the heart in the absence of gravity. The Cygnus spacecraft will spend more than a month attached to the space station. In December, the spacecraft will dispose of approximately 3,000 pounds of trash during its fiery reentry into Earth's atmosphere.

Orbital is evaluating the explosion -- termed a "mishap" on the NASA website -- and the company has a contingency plan, which is good since the things they were due to take to the ISS were more than likely important since they were worth transporting through space.

NASA video of the launch shows the Orbital craft launching and then erupting into a ball of flames. There were reportedly no injuries and the damage to the site is -- for now -- being reported as not terrible. Current NASA video shows the launch pad with some fire still burning but basically intact. No word on the cause of the explosion.

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