After just two minutes in the air, an unmanned Space Exploration Technologies rocket exploded after liftoff from Florida on Sunday. destroying a cargo ship bound for the International Space Station. This is not first incident of it’s kind as previous attempts to send supplies to the station have ended in disaster.
The International Space Station crew – two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut – has about four months of food and supplies on board, so the mishap does not lead to an emergency situation.
The 208-foot-tall (63-meter) Falcon 9 rocket, took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force. It was built and flown by the company known as SpaceX – which in turn is owned by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk.
The rocket has a good track record of making 18 successful launches since its 2010 debut – these included six cargo runs for NASA under a 15-flight contract worth more than $2 billion.
SpaceX holds a second NASA contract, worth up to $2.6 billion, to upgrade its Dragon capsule to fly astronauts to the station. Boeing’s contract is worth up $4.2 billion.
A Russian Progress cargo ship failed to reach the outpost in April following a problem with its Soyuz launcher. Russia plans to launch a replacement capsule on Friday.
The cause of the explosion was is still not clear, officials said.
“This was a blow to us. We lost a lot of research equipment on this flight,” NASA Associate Administrator Bill Gerstenmaier told a news conference.
The explosion also marks a setback for SpaceX, which was in the perfect position to compete for the first time against United Launch Alliance – a joint venture of Lockheed Martin Corp and Boeing Co and the current sole launch provider for military and spy satellite launches, to launch a GPS III satellite.
An investigation into the explosion will ground the Falcon 9 rockets for “a number of months or so” but less than a year, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell told the news conference.
A preliminary analysis indicated a problem with the rocket’s upper-stage engine, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said on Twitter.
NASA’s second cargo transporter, run by Orbital ATK , remains grounded following a launch accident in October.