ByMark Newton, writer at
Movie Pilot Associate Editor. Email: [email protected]
Mark Newton

It's not often we get to marvel in a massive real life explosion guilt free - but that's exactly what we got on Wednesday when an Orbital Sciences Corp Antares rocket spectacularly exploded shortly after take off in Virginia.

The Antares, which is a medium expendable launcher, was due to deliver 5,000 kg of supplies and experimental equipment to the International Space Station. However, shortly after take off, the unmanned rocket appeared to suffer a major malfunction, before falling back to Earth and exploding in a ball of fire which would make a Michael Bay movie jealous. Check out the live BBC coverage of the incident, complete with control center communications, below:

First of all, kudos to the professionalism of the news anchor there, because I'm pretty sure most of is would have screamed 'Holy shit!' at the top of our voices if we had just witnessed that.

Luckily, with no one onboard, no one hurt on the ground, and a private company footing most of the bill, we can kind of just sit back and enjoy - although the astronauts aboard the ISS might have to go without their freeze-dried crab cakes for a while.

Here it is again, just for good measure.

Oh and here it is again, but this time recorded from a light aircraft flying nearby. The recorder of this footage, Ed Sealing, does provide a more fitting, if still surprisingly restrained, reaction.

At the time of writing, the reason for the malfunction and the amount of damage caused has yet to be released, but it's expected that significant damage has been sustained by the Wallops Flight Facility from which the Antares launched.

Indeed, it has not been ruled out that the company's staff triggered the self-destruct mechanism after the launch went wrong. However, most early speculation seems to revolve around the Anteres' AJ-26 engines, which do appear to be the source of the explosion. The engines are modified Russian power units, and one did explode earlier this year during ground testing.

This is a major blow to Orbital Sciences who were hoping to market Antares as a multi-purpose commercial launcher for routine resupply missions. However, Orbital Sciences has been in the business a long time and this hasn't been their first setback. The executive vice-president of Orbital Sciences, Frank Culbertson, is confident the company can bounce back. He told the BBC:

We will understand what happened, hopefully soon, and we'll get things back on track. We've all seen this happen in our business before, and we've all seen the teams recover from this, and we will do the same.

He added that locals should not head to the crash site in hope of finding souvenirs, as the rocket was carrying "hazardous materials."


After viewing the explosion, would you want to go into space?

Source: BBC News


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