Several months ago, a Russian rocket, carrying Russia's most advanced communications satellite, exploded on launch and the west was amused at Russia's seeming incompetence, while birthing extensive speculation of the NSA's involvement. Well, moments ago either Karma, or Russian hackers, intervened, and 6 seconds after launch, the NASA unmanned Antares rocket of rocket-maker Orbital Sciences, likewise ended its mission prematurely in a massive flaming fireball.
A video of the explosion:
Live feed from NASA of the remains:
The stock of the rocket-maker ORB appears to be likewise in flames after hours, down some 8.5% at last check.
More details on the mission prior to its terminal failure:
An unmanned Antares rocket is scheduled to launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) on the Eastern Shore about 6:45 p.m. today, boosting a Cygnus cargo freighter to rendezvous with the International Space Station.
The launch of the Antares — a medium-lift rocket — should be visible throughout Hampton Roads and the mid-Atlantic. It's carrying a Cygnus spacecraft packed with about 5,000 pounds of cargo — the heaviest payload to date for rocket-maker Orbital Sciences Corp.
The Cygnus is expected to remain in orbit for several days before berthing with the space station in the early hours of Nov. 2, when station crew are set to use a robotic arm to grapple the spaecraft into port. Station astronauts will unpack provisions, hardware and science experiments, then begin to reload the craft with trash — or disposable cargo — that will eventually burn up in the atmosphere upon rentry.
Cargo spacecraft typically remain at the space station for about 30 days before making their return flight.
And from the official NASA press release:
NASA Wallops Preparations on Track for Tonight’s Orbital Sciences Launch to International Space Station
Ahead of the third U.S. commercial resupply mission to the International Space Station by Orbital Sciences Corp., NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia continues to enable successful launches from the Eastern Shore. Orbital’s Antares rocket carrying 5,000 pounds of NASA cargo aboard the company’s Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled to liftoff at 6:22 p.m. EDT this evening from Pad 0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops.
A Monday launch attempt was scrubbed because a boat was inside the range safety zone southwest of the launch pad.
“Wallops is home to NASA’s only owned and operated launch range, providing safety, area clearance, tracking and telemetry, and logistical support to range users like Orbital Sciences,” said Bill Wrobel, Wallops director. “Public safety is our top priority for launch operations and the teams at Wallops have done a tremendous job getting ready to support these launches. But, we also need the public’s help to ensure the safe and successful beginning of these resupply missions to the International Space Station.”
On Monday evening, a sailboat about 26 feet long entered the hazard zone early in the launch count. The hazard area for the launch of Antares is about 1,400 square miles off the coast of Wallops Island along the Eastern Shore of Virginia. Radar aircraft detected the boat and hailed it several times, but there was no response. A spotter plane made multiple passes around the boat at low altitudes using commonly understood signals such as wing waving to establish contact. However, the operator did not respond.
The boat was traveling very slowly at a speed of about four knots and remained in the hazard area at the time of Orbital’s scheduled launch. The presence of the boat exceeded a mandatory safety requirement for launch, scrubbing the launch to Tuesday.
Well-ahead of launch operations, two public notifications, notices to mariners (NOTMARs) and the notification for the establishment of an Army Corps of Engineers Danger Zone, are released. Boats under way in the ocean also are requested to monitor marine band radio channel 16 for safety messages and communication with marine authorities.
Nine hours before the scheduled lift-off time, Wallops' area clearance personnel are in active communication on the marine band radio with boaters traveling in and near the established hazard area. This early in the countdown, the area clearance officer is actively working to keep the area cleared by contacting boaters about the upcoming launch operation. More complex surveillance of the area begins four hours prior to liftoff with the Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary, the Virginia Marine Police and Contract Surveillance Boats, about seven to eight boats actively patrolling the area. Three hours prior to launch, a radar aircraft, spotting aircraft, and helicopter are used to surveil the area.
Among the science cargo Cygnus will transport to the space station are a study to enable the first space-based observations of meteors entering Earth’s atmosphere, a multitude of student investigations covering topics such as the effects of microgravity on plant growth and the rates of milk spoilage in space and international research including a study to determine how blood flows from the brain to the heart in the absence of gravity. A launch attempt Tuesday evening will result in Cygnus arriving to the space station Sunday, Nov. 2.