Orbital Sciences’ Antares Rocket, which was bound for the International Space Station on Tuesday, exploded due to a self-destruct mechanism, the company stated. Once problems arose in the launch sequence, the operator hit self-destruct. The self-destruct feature in the Antares was set off by a Flight Termination System, once it became clear that the Antares would not be able to meet its intended trajectory. The feature makes sure that the rocket would not go down over a populated area.
— NASA (@NASA) October 29, 2014
“Prior to impacting the ground, the rocket’s Flight Termination System was engaged by the designated official in the Wallops Range Control Center,” Orbital Sciences said.
Mark Kelly, a SpaceX advisory board member and retired NASA astronaut, told CNN initiating the Antares’ Flight Termination System was the right call.
When Orbital’s Antares rocket exploded, it scattered debris over a very wide area. NASA is warning the public that along with food and supplies, some hazardous material was also within the Antares. NASA warned the public that any scattered debris is part of an accident scene, and in addition to be unsafe, it is illegal to tamper with the evidence. Anyone who finds debris from the Antares is expected to contact the authorities by calling 757-824-1295, so that the debris can be safely recovered and adequately studied. All debris from the Antares will be cataloged and moved to Wallops Island storage bays, according to Orbital Sciences.
— NASA (@NASA) October 30, 2014
Orbital disclosed Thursday that the problem with the Antares occurred at some point during the first stage of the launch. According to Time, the Russian-designed engines on the Antares were vintage, and may have caused the mishap. The engine had reportedly failed a ground test earlier this year.
Barron Beneski, vice president of Orbital Sciences’ corporate communications, confirmed the self-destruct feature was initiated in an email to CNN. Orbital Sciences’ website stated that the Antares “fell back to the ground impacting near, but not on, the launch pad.” The rocket exploded prior to hitting the ground, the company information declared.
“At this point we believe the on-site data review process has progressed as far as necessary, so the team is transitioning back to their home bases. The Accident Investigation Board (AIB) Chairman, Mr. Dave Steffy, and members of the AIB that are now being identified, will immediately take over further development of the ‘fault tree’ that will drive future investigation activities.”
Orbital Sciences is updating its website as new information about the Antares as new information becomes available.