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WASHINGTON, October 30. /TASS/. A team of experts has completed an initial assessment of Wallops Island, Virginia, where the Antares carrier rocket with Cygnus cargo spacecraft exploded seconds after takeoff, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) said in a statement.
“In the coming days and weeks ahead, we'll continue to assess the damage on the island and begin the process of moving forward to restore our space launch capabilities. There's no doubt in my mind that we will rebound stronger than ever,” Bill Wrobel, director of NASA's Wallops Flight Facility, was quoted as saying.
NASA said “it will take many more weeks to further understand and analyze the full extent of the effects of the event.”
The buildings nearest to the launch pad have suffered the most damage, and a number of them have broken windows and imploded doors, the statement said.
Although no casualties have been reported in the accident, the loss for NASA and companies that had products aboard the spacecraft is estimated at around $200 million.
As for environmental effects of the launch failure, no hazardous substances have been detected in the air samples collected at the Wallops mainland area. “Additional air, soil and water samples will be collected from the incident area as well as at control sites for comparative analysis,” the statement said.
Experts of the Ukrainian design bureau Yuzhnoye, which took part in designing and manufacturing the Antares carrier rocket, have launched their own investigation in the explosion, Ukrinform news agency reported.
The two-stage Antares carrier rocket exploded in the air just seconds after liftoff from NASA's space center on Wallops Island in Virginia. It was carrying the Cygnus cargo craft with two tons of payload to the International Space Station, including 720 kilograms of equipment and materials for research experiments.
One of the experiments was to do chemical analysis of the substances formed by meteorites burning in the Earth's atmosphere.
Antares, which was known as Taurus II in the initial phases of its development, was designed for orbiting small payloads of up to 5,000 kilograms. Its developers are the Orbital Science Corporation and Ukraine's Yuzhmash R & D Group.
Under the terms of the project, the Ukrainian side designed and manufactured the first stage of the rocket, while the US company took charge of the second stage and the ground launch site.
The program was partly financed by NASA and the entire cost of its implementation reached $1.9 billion. The first four launches of the Antares carrier rockets were successful.