NASA WALLOPS FLIGHT FACILITY, VA – Barely a day ago I witnessed the sudden and utter destruction of an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket being consumed in a totally unexpected devastating fireball moments after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the eastern shore of Virginia at 6:22 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, October 28.
See above my raw video footage of the catastrophic Orb-3 launch taken from the media viewing site at NASA Wallops located about 1.8 miles away from the beachside Launch Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at Wallops.
I was interviewed by NBC News and you can watch the entire story and see my Antares explosion photos featured at NBC Nightly News on Oct. 29 here.
The highly anticipated 1st night launch of Antares would have been visible to tens of millions up and down the eastern seaboard from South Carolina to Maine. Overall it was the 5th Antares launch.
The doomed mission was bound for the International Space Station (ISS) on a flight to bring up some 5000 pounds of (2200 kg) of science experiments, research instruments, crew provisions, spare parts, spacewalk and computer equipment and gear on the critical resupply mission dubbed Orb-3 bound for the International Space Station (ISS).
Listen closely as the sound gradually builds with Antares slowly lifting off from the pad to a deafening crescendo as it explodes violently and without warning followed by multiple blasts and detonations as the rockets breaks apart in a hail of dangerous debris.
You can clearly here the shocked voices of spectators disbelief, including my own, at was has just transpired.
Then you’ll see the see the ‘shock and awe’ as the sky lights on fire with the rockets catastrophic destruction and the camera shakes as the blasts shock wave zooms past us at the media site followed by a quick blast of noticeable heat.
Rapidly thereafter our NASA escorts ordered an immediate evacuation to protect everyone lives. There were no injuries.
Read my inside account of the days terrible events – here.
It was the heaviest cargo load yet lofted by a Cygnus. Some 800 pounds additional cargo was loaded on board compared to earlier flights. That was enabled by using the more powerful ATK CASTOR 30XL engine to power the second stage for the first time.
A steady train of science experiments and supplies are required to continue operating the massive orbiting outpost and its six person crew.
Watch here for Ken’s onsite reporting direct from NASA Wallops.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.