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NASA photo gallery: How to blow $200m of rocket in seconds

Orbital's Antares epic fail in living color

Pics Last November, Orbital Sciences lost one of its Antares rockets in an almighty explosion seconds after takeoff. When it become clear the stack was falling back to Earth rather than soaring toward the heavens, a launch controller detonated the scuttling charges on the craft.

It was supposed to clear supplies and equipment to the International Space Station.

Antares launch

Smooth liftoff for doomed flight

There's still disagreement about what caused the failure that led to the red button being pushed – poor design and aging Russian rocket motors have both been suggested. Now NASA has released new images of the snafu showing just how devastating the explosion was, both for the rocket and for the Wallops launch site.

Antares rocket failure

"Er guys, we have a problem..."

The doomed Antares, worth over $200m if you only take into account the cost of the rocket and not the cargo intended for the ISS, ran into trouble seconds after launch. It appears as though one of the rocket engines blew out and the rocket lost power, leading the safety officer to abort the launch in spectacular fashion.

Antares rocket falling

What went up comes back down

According to NASA the problems started when parts rubbing together in a liquid oxygen turbo-pump during launch damaged the machinery and led to the rocket exploding. The blast damaged a second rocket motor, leading the Antares to lose power and start to fall.

Antares rocket blows up

Say goodbye to $200m

NASA said the problem stemmed from either poor engine design, a defect in the equipment, or possibly that foreign objects got inside the pumps and caused the failure. Orbital Sciences claims the problems are solely down to the Russian rocket motors.

Antares fireball

Not the place to be. Thankfully no-one was hurt

The Antares rocket is still grounded for the time being, as are those of Orbital's competitor SpaceX, following the Musketeers' little snafu the following June that also resulted in the destruction of the rocket and its cargo.

The aftermath at Wallops

The aftermath at Wallops

As the photos show, the Wallops launch site was extensively damaged in the explosion, and the toxic jet fuel coated the entire site. It took months for the cleanup and rebuilding operation to get the launch pad back up and running. ®

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