Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket exploded shortly after liftoff from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia on Tuesday as part of a private cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station.
Aside from damage to the launch pad and the launch vehicle itself, no injuries have been reported, according to NASA TV. The launch occurred at 6:22 p.m. EDT, exploding just seconds after liftoff.
The rocket launched from Pad 0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. This is the only launchpad certified to launch the Antares rocket, putting future Orbital Sciences launches on hold.
The Antares rocket was carrying 5,000 pounds of supplies, including food and science experiments, in its Cygnus spacecraft. The failure of the resupply mission will pose no threat to astronauts aboard the ISS. The space station has enough consumables onboard to support the crew for at least another four to six months.
All science experiments onboard the spacecraft are replaceable, according to representatives from Orbital Sciences. The Antares rocket and Cygnus spacecraft, which were destroyed, cost over $200 million dollars, not including the cargo onboard.
According to NASA officials and representatives from Orbital Sciences, it is still too soon to determine the cause of the failure during liftoff. Orbital Sciences will lead the investigation into what caused the launch failure with assistance from NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration.
“While NASA is disappointed that Orbital Sciences’ third contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station was not successful today, we will continue to move forward toward the next attempt once we fully understand today’s mishap,” William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations said in a statement. “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.”
This was Orbital Sciences’ third cargo resupply mission to the ISS, following successful launches earlier this year in January and July. This is the first launch failure under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contracts. Orbital Sciences is under contract to perform eight cargo resupply missions to the ISS. SpaceX is also under contract to provide cargo resupply services to the space station, with its fifth resupply mission set for Dec. 9.
NASA and Orbital Sciences plan to hold a press conference regarding the launch failure at 9 p.m. EDT on Tuesday. We will update you with further details as they become available.