Latest on Antares Rocket Explosion Investigation - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Latest on Antares Rocket Explosion Investigation

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WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. - Orbital Science's CEO David Thompson told investors in a Wednesday afternoon conference call that early investigations show the launch pad on Wallops Island appears to have been spared from any major damage.

Thompson went on to say that Orbital has assembled a Accident Investigation Board which includes Orbital, NASA, the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport, and the National Transportation Safety Board.  The goal is to determine what caused the failure of the Antares rocket just seconds after liftoff at 6:22 pm on Tuesday night. The rocket was carrying the Cygnus cargo spacecraft filled with nearly 5,000 pounds of supplies for the astronauts aboard the International Space Station.

"Despite the diligent efforts of some of the aerospace industry's best and brightest people, sometimes things do go wrong," Thompson said in the conference call to investors on Wednesday.

The investigation will pay close attention to the 1st stage of the main propulsion system of the Antares rocket to try and determine if that is the system that caused the failure and eventual explosion of the rocket.  There is no timetable on how long the investigation may last, so a delay of future launches is possible for Orbital Sciences.

"I would anticipate that there would be some delay in the next scheduled Antares launch, which as I mentioned earlier, is currently scheduled for early April," the Orbital CEO said.

Thompson said he expects the delay could be about three months, but things could go longer than expected and Thompson hopes ultimately, no launches are delayed for more than a year.

A statement released by Orbital around 7:30 on Wednesday night read, “It is far too early to know the details of what happened,” said Mr. Frank Culbertson, Orbital's Executive Vice President and General Manager of its Advanced Programs Group.“As we begin to gather information, our primary concern lies with the ongoing safety and security of those involved in our response and recovery operations. We will conduct a thorough investigation immediately to determine the cause of this failure and what steps can be taken to avoid a repeat of this incident. As soon as we understand the cause we will begin the necessary work to return to flight to support our customers and the nation's space program.”
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