NASA has completed an initial assessment of the launch facilities at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia following the explosion of Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket on Tuesday.
Orbital Sciences’ Antares exploded just seconds after liftoff from Pad 0A on Wallops Island at 6:22 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, on what would’ve been the private company’s third cargo resupply mission to the International Space Station.
The initial assessment showed that aside from the debris the launch pad and fuel tanks remained intact, while the transporter erector launcher and lightning suppression rods at the site suffered damage. A sounding rocket launcher and buildings near the launchpad endured the worst damage. However, NASA said it will take many more weeks to fully understand the extent of the damage and its effects. There have been no reports of any injuries at the launch site, according to NASA officials.
“I want to praise the launch team, range safety, all of our emergency responders and those who provided mutual aid and support on a highly-professional response that ensured the safety of our most important resource — our people,” said Wallops Director Bill Wrobel. “In the coming days and weeks ahead, we’ll continue to assess the damage on the island and begin the process of moving forward to restore our space launch capabilities. There’s no doubt in my mind that we will rebound stronger than ever.”
The environmental impact of the explosion appears to be minimal upon first inspection. The environmental effects seem to be limited to the region surrounding the launch pad on the southern third of Wallops Island. Air samples collected immediately after the incident showed no traces of hazardous substances.
“The Coast Guard and Virginia Marine Resources Commission reported today they have not observed any obvious signs of water pollution, such as oil sheens,” NASA said in a statement. “Furthermore, initial assessments have not revealed any obvious impacts to fish or wildlife resources. The Incident Response Team continues to monitor and assess.”
Orbital Sciences is in charge of the investigation into the launch failure, and will receive assistance from NASA and the Federal Aviation Administration.