The National  Memo Logo

Smart. Sharp. Funny. Fearless.

Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Washington — An unmanned rocket owned by Orbital Sciences Corporation exploded in a giant fireball and plummeted back to Earth just seconds after launch on what was to be a resupply mission to the International Space Station.

“The Antares rocket suffered an accident shortly after lift-off,” NASA mission control in Houston said, describing the blast at Wallops Island, Virginia, as a “catastrophic anomaly.”

Orbital’s unmanned Cygnus cargo ship was carrying 5,000 pounds (2,200 kilograms) of supplies for the six astronauts living at the research outpost.

After the countdown, the base of the tall, white rocket ignited on cue, then rose a short distance into the air before it suddenly exploded in a fiery blast six seconds later.

Enveloped in flames, the rocket collapsed to the ground, as a cloud of dark gray smoke rose from the wreckage.

Officials said the cost of the rocket and supplies was over $200 million, not including the damage caused on the ground.

Investigators swiftly secured the perimeter of the area and forbade any outside interviews of witnesses or staff, citing classified equipment that had been aboard the spacecraft.

As night fell, fires were seen burning at the coastal launch pad, where waves lapped at the shore.

It was unclear what caused the explosion, which occurred at 6:22 pm (2222 GMT).

“Something went wrong, and we will find out what that is,” said Frank Culbertson, executive vice president at Orbital Sciences.

He said investigators would evaluate the debris and analyze the rocket’s telemetry to uncover the exact sequence of events.

All personnel in the area were accounted for, and there were no injuries, officials said.

There was, however significant property damage at the launchpad.

It was the first nighttime launch of an Antares rocket, according to Orbital’s pre-launch blog.

Engineers said the countdown had gone smoothly, and there were no issues apparent with the machinery before the launch.

“We don’t really have any early indication of what might have failed,” Culbertson said.

– Space station well-stocked –

The mission, known as CRS-3, was to be Orbital’s fourth trip to the ISS, including an initial demonstration flight.

Bill Gerstenmaier, associate administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate, said the space station was well-stocked and that no “absolutely critical” cargo was lost in the blast.

Orbital has a $1.9 billion contract with NASA for a total of eight supply missions.

After the U.S. space shuttle program ended in 2011, leaving no government program to send humans to the space station, private companies raced to restore U.S. access.

SpaceX’s Dragon was the first commercial spacecraft to make a supply journey there in 2010. Its next trip is scheduled for early December.

The Cygnus craft, which is shaped like a massive beer keg, made its first journey to the ISS in 2013.

Unlike the Dragon, which returns to Earth intact, the Cygnus burns up on re-entry to Earth’s atmosphere.

President Barack Obama was briefed on the launch failure and would continue to receive updates on the probe, the White House said.

AFP Photo

Interested in more national news? Sign up for our daily email newsletter!

Advertising

Start your day with National Memo Newsletter

Know first.

The opinions that matter. Delivered to your inbox every morning

The privilege of beholding the corals of Belize, the second largest reef system on earth, is a complete marvel that can never be taken for granted. The school of nine squid in perfect alignment that stared at us like transparent sentinels ,the green barracuda that floated as if in suspended animation, looking for prey. Those moments of utter awe were soul transformative not only for a child, but also for parents nurturing a young human to the ultimate reason to exist on this earth, to care for life.

Over the next few years, a battle was waged between environmentalists and those who saw dollars in the form of oil extraction in the reef. Thankfully on December 1, 2015, right after the Cop21 Paris Climate Accord, Belize made the tremendous decision to ban drilling outright -- and is working hard to restore coral. The same cannot be said for many other fragile parts of the world particularly the warming Arctic, where Russia has a near stranglehold of more than half the Arctic Ocean.

Keep reading... Show less
Youtube Screenshot

The saturation of the ranks of our police forces with far-right extremists is one of the harsh realities of American life that bubbled up during the police brutality protests of 2020 and was laid bare by the January 6 insurrection. The presence of these extremists not only is a serious security and enforcement threat—particularly when it comes to dealing with far-right violence—but has created a toxic breach between our communities and the people they hire to protect and serve them. Too often, as in Portland, the resulting police culture has bred a hostility to their communities that expresses itself in biased enforcement and a stubborn unaccountability.

Much of this originates in police training, which are the foundations of cop culture. And a recent Reuters investigative report has found that police training in America is riddled with extremists: Their survey of police training firms—35 in all—that provide training to American police authorities found five of them employ (and in some cases, are operated by) men whose politics are unmistakably of the far-right extremist variety. And these five people alone are responsible for training hundreds of American cops every year.

Keep reading... Show less
{{ post.roar_specific_data.api_data.analytics }}