Unmanned SpaceX Rocket Explodes

Unmanned SpaceX Rocket ExplodesUnmanned SpaceX Rocket Explodes

An unmanned SpaceX rocket carrying supplies and the first-of-its-kind docking port to the International Space Station broke apart Sunday shortly after liftoff. It was a severe blow to NASA, still reeling from previous failed shipments.

The accident occurred about 150 seconds into the flight from Cape Canaveral, Florida. Pieces could be seen falling into the Atlantic Ocean, AFP reported.

More than 2,360 km of space station cargo were on board, including the first docking port designed for future commercial crew capsules.

“The vehicle has broken up,” announced NASA commentator George Diller. He said it was not clear how the disaster occurred or even when the rocket actually failed. The rocket appeared to break apart while traveling at 4,670 kph, about 43 km up.

This was the second failed station shipment in a row and the third in eight months. In April, a Russian cargo ship spun out of control and burned up upon re-entry, along with all its precious contents. Last October, another company’s supply ship was destroyed in a launch accident.

California-based SpaceX, a private company, was trying to figure out what happened, noting that everything appeared to go well in flight until the rocket went supersonic. Losing this shipment, which included replacements for items lost in two previous failed supply flights, was a seen as huge setback for NASA which is counting on private industry to transport cargo, and eventually astronauts, to the orbiting lab.

SpaceX is one of two companies hired by the US space agency to start ferrying American astronauts to the space station as early as 2017. The other contender is Boeing.