A rocket that was to resupply the International Space Station blew up Tuesday night a few seconds after lift-off from Wallops Island, Va. (NASA)

 

For the latest Antares updates see: Rocket blows up seconds after launching

Update at 9 p.m. ET: The NASA press conference following the Antares rocket explosion is scheduled to begin momentarily. Watch live: NASA TV

 

Update at 7:06 p.m. ET: Local radar shows smoke from the Antares explosion in Wallops, Va.:

 

Update at 6:45 p.m. ET: NASA confirms that all personnel are accounted for, and there were no injuries in the Antares explosion.

Update at 6:40 p.m. ET: The team is gathering witness statements of the accident. An accident investigation team will be coordinated and led by Richard Straka, Deputy General Manager of Orbital’s Launch Systems Group. The investigation team will include representatives from NASA, Orbital, and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Wallops, Va.

Update at 6:30 p.m. ET: Just seconds after liftoff, the Antares rocket exploded and fell back to the ground.

The Orbital team is implementing its necessary procedures and investigating the cause of the failure. Officials on NASA TV have said that the damage appears to be limited to the facility, and there’s no indication that any personnel are in danger, but there is significant property and vehicle damage.

A news conference is forthcoming.

Live coverage is still in progress on NASA TV.

Original post, from this afternoon


The Antares rocket on Tuesday morning. (Orbital Sciences via Twitter)

Monday night’s Antares rocket launch was scrubbed when a sailboat entered the range. Fortunately, the weather is looking favorable for Tuesday’s “take two,” which is scheduled for 6:22 p.m.ET.

Photographers lined the tidal basin in Washington D.C. on Monday evening to capture a perfect shot of the rocket launch from Wallops Island, Va. The International Space Station was scheduled to pass overhead a few minutes later, providing an excellent opportunity for a unique photo.

However, just as the final, 12-minute countdown was scheduled to begin, the launch process was put on hold for a “boat in range.”

After liftoff, the Antares rocket will fly eastward over the Atlantic Ocean. A safety range or launch hazard area of about 1,400 square miles is set up around the launch site so that in case of a failure, no one is at risk.

According to NASA Public Affairs Officer Stephanie Schierholz, public notifications were released to mariners in the vicinity of NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility. The notice outlined the consequences of disregarding the safety range, including fines and even arrest by the U.S. Coast Guard. It’s not yet known what action may have been taken against the passengers of the sailboat that scrubbed Monday night’s launch.

Schierholz described Monday’s hazard in an email:

On Monday evening, a small sailboat, about 26 feet long, entered the hazard zone early in the launch count. The radar aircraft detected the boat and hailed it several times, but there was no response. The spotter plane made multiple passes around the boat at low altitudes using commonly understood signals (wing waving) to establish contact; however the operator did not respond. The boat was traveling very slowly, about 4 knots, and remained in the hazard area at the time of our scheduled launch.

Business Insider writes that this isn’t the first time a rocket launch has been canceled due to something other than inclement weather:

In 2000, the launch of an Atlas rocket coincided with a fishing tournament and multiple boats steered into the restricted zones, so the launch was cancelled. Planes can also interfere and mission controllers must simply wait for the planes to fly clear of the rocket’s path — though sometimes these launch windows are very small — just minutes — and even a responsive interloper can become a major issue and cause the launch to be rescheduled.

The weather is looking favorable [update at 4:30 p.m.: somewhat favorable…] in the D.C. area for a successful launch on Tuesday evening, which is scheduled for 6:22 p.m. ET. Clouds ahead of an approaching cold front are pushing into the Mid-Atlantic, but skies are expected to stay just partly cloudy around D.C. through launch time. You should be able to see the launch through the breaks in the clouds.

At Wallops, Orbital Sciences says that the overall launch status is green as of Tuesday afternoon:

If you’re planning to head outdoors, a map from Orbital illustrates when the rocket will be visible in the sky. In D.C., this is about 90 seconds after launch. You’ll want to be looking toward the southeast. Live coverage of the launch begins on NASA TV at 5:30 p.m. ET.


(Orbital Sciences)