NASA launch officials were forced to hit the “destruct” button on an experimental rocket that launched early Friday morning. The launch and subsequent explosion was captured on both amateur and NASA video, and shows the pieces falling back to Earth.
The countdown and initial takeoff Friday morning from a NASA launch facility on Wallops Island, Virginia, went smoothly, said former astronaut Kent Rominger, a vice president in ATK’s (Alliant Tech Systems) launch systems division. “Then (the rocket) appeared to veer south,” he said. To the naked eye the flight didn’t appear to be in trouble, he said, but it was moving off course.
The rocket was a little more than 2 miles high when it was destroyed. A team of officials from NASA and ATK are investigating the incident.
Here’s the amateur video:
The rocket’s planned flight wouldn’t have taken it into orbit and was set to last about 11 minutes, with the rocket coming down far out in the Atlantic Ocean, said Bryce Hallowell, an ATK spokesman.
The NASA experiments lost aboard the flight had cost about $17 million total, a NASA spokeswoman said.
The rocket flight itself wasn’t part of any government contract, but was an effort by ATK to develop capabilities for full-fledged launches of space vehicles. The project had been in development at ATK for two to three years with about 50 people working on it at some point in that time. A dollar figure for the rocket project wasn’t released.
Officials said they do not know why it veered off course. It was destroyed to avoid endangering the public.
“I would be surprised if we don’t know what happened fairly quickly,” said Rominger.
Here’s the NASA video:
Source: Twin Cities.com