WASHINGTON, October 29. /TASS/. The Antares rocket with the American cargo spacecraft Cygnus exploded during blastoff from NASA launch facility on the Wallops Island near the Virginia coast on Tuesday.
The NASA website was transmitting a live broadcast of the rocket launch. The explosion occurred immediately after the liftoff at 18:23 pm, local time (01:23 am, Moscow time, October 29).
There were no immediate reports about casualties or damage to the spaceport facilities. NASA said a special commission comprising representatives of NASA and Orbital Sciences will be formed to investigate the catastrophe.
Cygnus was to loiter in orbit until Nov. 2, then fly itself to the station so astronauts can use a robotic crane to snare the capsule and attach it to a berthing port. The ISS, a $100 billion research laboratory owned and operated by 15 nations, flies about 260 miles (418 km) above Earth.
In addition to food, supplies and equipment, the Cygnus spacecraft was loaded with more than 1,600 pounds (725 kg) of science experiments, including an investigation to chemically analyze meteors as they burn up in Earth's atmosphere.