On Tuesday, October 28th, 2014, the Antares rocket, contracted by NASA, was scheduled to lift off for the International Space Station (ISS), but instead was left in a ball of flames as it took off from the launch platform located on the Eastern Shore of Virginia. The routine mission has left many baffled as to what the cause of the malfunction was and what is to come for future NASA missions.
The unmanned rocket, created by Orbital Sciences, was tasked with a seemingly easy mission to deliver supplies and experiments to the International Space Station for the astronauts aboard. The rocket, carrying about 5,000 pounds of supplies and experiments, launched at about 6:22 p.m. and not long after people witnessed the rocket engulfed in flames midair. The cargo aboard was made up of: spacewalk tools for the astronauts to use outside of the station, food, books, flight equipment, and computer resources. Fortunately, no one was injured during the launch, but because the rocket exploded, the astronauts will not be getting anything new for a little while.
According to Frank Culbertson, executive vice president at Orbital Sciences Corp, via CNN, ““It’s not as tragic as losing a life associated with it and so, we’re very happy to report that there were no injuries. That hardware, however, it’s very important and very high value to the company and to our customers.””
The experiments on the aircraft ranged from student research to full medical studies, so losing them was a great cost to Orbital Sciences. The crew will not be without supplies, though; the ISS, being part of a larger coalition, is never under supplied or lacking.
According to NASA and Mike Suffredini, program manager for NASA’s International Space Station, via CNN, ““The crew has all the food, water and other consumables necessary to support them well into next year. I think if no other vehicle showed up, we can go all the way into the March time frame. If Orbital can’t resupply the space station, others can.””
The debris of the rocket is being handled with care as well. As information is collected, though, officials are warning people to stay away from the crash site and to not touch anything they might try to collect. The debris is part of an accident site and could be hazardous, so people are being told to inform local authorities if they accidentally come upon any pieces.
How and why the rocket malfunctioned are still unknown, but NASA and Orbital Sciences are looking into it extensively. This problem will only be holding up the launching of another Antares rocket for a short period of time due to the fact the launch pad is out of commission. So the delay of future flights will be short lived.