WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. – The launch of an unmanned commercial supply rocket on Virginia’s shore was supposed to be a moment of celebration. Crowds gathered to watch. Astronauts huddled around a live video feed in anticipation.
But Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket, bound for the International Space Station, exploded six seconds after liftoff on Oct. 28, 2014, marking the first catastrophic launch in NASA’s commercial spaceflight effort.
More than a year after the blast, NASA released images this week showing the fiery explosion that lit up the sky and sent scorched wreckage flying.
NASA’s independent review team said the initial fire was caused by friction from rubbing parts in a turbopump in one of the rocket’s old Russian-built engines. The pump exploded seconds after liftoff. As the rocket fell, controllers sent a destruct signal just before impact to minimize damage. No one was injured in the blast, but the $200 million mission and the Wallops Island launch complex were ruined. More photos at startribune.com/galleries.