Hours after being delayed due to a sailboat wandering within the 40-mile ‘Hazard Zone’, an unmanned Antares rocket carrying vital supplies to the International Space Station exploded at launch at the Wallops Launch Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, just after sundown. Fires were seen burning for more than an hour after launch as emergency crews scrambled to follow their contingency plans.
Initial reports suggest no one was injured in the accident and a press conference with ‘all relevant parties’ was to be scheduled shortly. Public transmissions from Mission Control Houston also stated that there is ‘missing, sensitive crypto=technology’ which required the area to be secured while ‘recovery procedures move forward’.
Another quick radio broadcast, apparently from a high-ranking member at Orbital Sciences, was heard at approximately 7:19 PM saying ‘do not talk with the press’ and ‘do not talk outside of our family, or speculate about the cause, even with one another’.
The loss of this rocket puts the beleaguered International Space Station at even more risk, given the recent strain in relations between the United States and Russia. For more than three years the United States has relied on Russian spacecraft to bring personnel to the station, now even the Americans’ ability to supply cargo is at peril.