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Catastrophic anomaly

(Oct. 31, 2014) Just six seconds after launch, an Orbital Sciences Corp. rocket commissioned by NASA exploded over the Wallops Flight Facility at Wallops Island, Va. Tuesday night.


Svetlana Henning photographs the Orbital rocket crash at Wallops Island Tuesday evening from Interstate 175 in Va. “I watched the launch through my camera’s lens, so I thought it went up so fast that I missed it. I didn’t realize that it was actually falling back down,” she said. (SVETLANA HENNING / PHOTO)

The rocket, the third U.S. commercial resupply mission by Orbital, carried 5,000 pounds of cargo intended for the International Space Station.

Instead, the space vehicle suffered what Rachel Kraft, NASA Office of Communications termed a “catastrophic anomaly” shortly after it lifted off at 6:22 p.m. Eastern.

“Launch is a really tough business,” William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations for NASA, said. “When we look at all these events that occur flawlessly and go well, we need to recognize how difficult and demanding this business really is.”

Gerstenmaier said Orbital would lead the investigation along with the FAA and NASA.

He added that the space station was “in good shape” in terms of consumable supplies.

Frank L. Culbertson, executive vice president and general manager of Advanced Programs Group at Orbital, said,“What we know is pretty much what everybody saw in the video. The asset stopped. There was some disassembly of the first stage it looked like, and then it fell to earth.”

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