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NASA releases more information on Antares explosion


The space agency said that the launch pad at Wallops Island, Virginia, where the 240,000-kg (530,000-lb) rocket went up in flames seconds after lift off has been cordoned off by firefighters until daylight because of the on-going hazards from fires, and scattered solid and hypergolic fuel from the Antares.

NASA says that Orbital Sciences Corporation (the builders and operators of the Cygnus and Antares), the US FAA, and NASA are investigating what happened to the Antares rocket when it was destroyed at 6:22 pm EDT. It suffered a "catastrophic anomaly" 10 to 12 seconds after launch, after which the range safety officer activated the rocket's autodestruct. No injuries were reported and all personnel have been accounted for, with damage confined to the south end of Wallops Island, though there was some debris was scattered over the water.

At the press conference, NASA and Orbital Science representatives said that the explosion resulted in the loss of the US$200 million spacecraft, plus damage to the ground facilities. Pad damage was sustained, but instrument readings indicate that some systems are still holding pressure, so are not seriously damaged. However, the exact extent of the accident is still unknown. In addition, the spacecraft processing facilities seem undamaged.

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