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BREAKING: Unmanned Antares Rocket Explodes on Liftoff

BREAKING: Unmanned Antares Rocket Explodes on Liftoff

AUSTIN, Texas — An unmanned private spaceship, launched today from Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, exploded shortly after liftoff at 6:22 p.m. Eastern Time Tuesday.

The Cygnus spacecraft, operated by the Dulles, Virginia based space technology company Orbital Sciences Corporation (NYSE: ORB), was launched atop an Antares rocket. NBC News reported that the craft contained 5,000 pounds of food, water, experiments, and other supplies designed for the International Space Station as part of a $1.9 billion contract to make eight delivery missions.

NASA’s live TV feed reported shortly after the accident that the NASA launch director confirmed all personnel had been accounted for with no casualties reported. The NASA personnel were calling the event a “catastrophic anomaly” and noted that the countdown had been “flawless,” with no issues reported. Instructions were heard being given to all personnel to collect notes and evidence to be gathered in a central location for the investigation into the cause.

UPDATE: NASA and Orbital Sciences will hold a press conference later this evening to report their initial findings. In the meantime, a website has been set up at www.nasa.gov/orbital with any relevant updates. NASA officials again confirmed that no personnel were injured. 

NASA had posted a photograph of the Antares rocket, shortly before liftoff, on their official Twitter account:

We’re 4 minutes from launching #Antares to @Space_Station. #Cygnus on internal power.Watch: http://t.co/6hggfUYmIS pic.twitter.com/lNvDCcIKaO

At 6:29 p.m. Eastern Time, Orbital Sciences tweeted, “There has been a vehicle anomaly” and promising updates to come.

NBC News has posted raw video of the launch and explosion. In the video, which begins at T-minus 10 seconds before the launch, shows the liftoff and then the explosion about 15 seconds after liftoff, with the rocket falling back down to the launchpad in a large ball of flames. The NASA announcer is overheard instructing the launch team to “maintain position at your consoles.”

Breitbart News will continue to monitor this breaking news story.

Follow Sarah Rumpf on Twitter @rumpfshaker

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