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Being on hand to witness a rocket launch is a thrilling experience, but as these NASA photos reveal, there's a reason why we watch them from a distance.
OUT OF THIS WORLD | Earth, Space And The Stuff In Between - a daily journey through weather, space and science with meteorologist/science writer Scott Sutherland

NASA pics put us close-up to a catastrophic rocket explosion


Scott Sutherland
Meteorologist/Science Writer

Thursday, November 5, 2015, 8:34 PM - Being on hand to witness a rocket launch is a thrilling experience, but as these NASA photos reveal, there's a reason why we watch them from a distance.

On October 28, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. Eastern Time, a tremendous explosion rocked the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island in Virginia, as an uncrewed Antares rocket, carrying supplies for the International Space Station, suffered a catastrophic failure and crashed just seconds after launch.

As these newly-released photos on NASA's Flickr account show, this is not an event that you would want to be watching from up close.


All appears fairly normal at first, but the situation deteriorates very quickly in this sequence of images from Oct 28, 2014. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky. Edited by author.


Rather than have the rocket veer off out of control, NASA signaled it to self-destruct. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky


With the explosion taking out the rocket's engines, it quickly plummeted back to Earth. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky


The fragmenting rocket rains debris and fire down towards launch pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky


The initial failure and self-destruct explosions were tiny compared to when the Antares rocket hit the ground. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky


These views from a remote camera at the launch pad show just how apocalyptic this explosion was. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky


Flames shoot into the sky from launch pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport following the crash of the Antares rocket. Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Despite the catastrophic nature of this failure and crash, the launch pad was repaired, on time and apparently under budget, as of September 30, 2015.

As for Orbital Sciences, they have their next Cygnus launch - the OA-4 resupply mission to the ISS - scheduled for sometime in December, from Cape Canaveral in Florida, and they will resume testing their Antares rockets in 2016.

Sources: NASA Flickr | NASA | Orbital ATK | VA Space

Watch it again: Orbital Science's Antares rocket suffers an anomaly just moments after launch on October 28, 2015.

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