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Unmanned Antares rocket explodes just seconds after takeoff

Mere seconds after leaving the launchpad today, an unmanned Orbital Sciences Antares rocket contracted by NASA malfunctioned, exploded, and crashed back to Earth. The incident occurred at 6:22 pm Eastern at the Wallops Island Flight Facility on the eastern shore of Virginia.

There were no crew aboard the craft, and NASA has confirmed that nobody was harmed. However, early reports estimate a significant amount of damage to equipment and facilities.

In addition to thousands of pounds of supplies destined for the¬†International Space Station, the rocket was also carrying the first payload to launch from Planetary Resources — the fledgling asteroid mining company whose investors include Larry Page and James Cameron.

Here is the full cargo manifest from NASA (via SpaceFlightInsider):

Science investigations: 1,602.8 lbs.
-U.S. science: 1,254.4 lbs
-International partner science: 348.3 lbs

Crew supplies: 1,649 lbs
-Equipment: 273.4 lbs
-Food: 1,360.3 lbs
-Flight prcedure books: 15.4 lbs

Vehicle hardware: 1,404.3 lbs
-U.S. hardware: 1,338.2 lbs
-JAXA hardware: 66.1 lbs

Spacewalk equipment: 145.5 lbs

Computer resources: 81.6 lbs
-Command and data handling equipment: 75 lbs
-Photopgraphy/TV equipment: 6.6 lbs

We will update this article with new information as it becomes available