An unmanned resupply mission to the International Space Station (ISS) has suffered a catastrophic failure six seconds after launch from the Wallops Island launch facility, Virginia. All personnel have been accounted for with zero injuries, however damage was sustained to the launch site.
The liftoff took place at 6.22 pm EST and represented the maiden flight of the upgraded Antares 130 rocket carrying the Cygnus cargo spacecraft, as developed by Orbital Sciences.
The upgraded rocket features the same first stage as its predecessor, but introduces a more powerful second stage, with the module length extended from 3.5 m (12 ft) to 6 m (20 ft). This allows more propellant to be carried, increasing the rocket’s potential payload capacity.
The rocket was originally scheduled to launch Monday, but was delayed when a boat strayed into the restricted waters to the south east of the launch pad. The mission was due to deliver more 5,000 lb (2,268 kg) of science and supplies to the ISS.
Prior to the launch no issues had been tracked with the Antares 130 rocket and weather conditions were declared to be 100 percent favorable. NASA personnel are currently implementing contingency procedures and gathering launch data for further analysis.
NASA and Orbital Sciences are currently in the process of determining when a press conference will be held regarding the incident.