WALLOPS ISLAND, Va.-- An Orbital Sciences Antares rocket carrying an unmanned cargo craft bound for the International Space Station exploded into flames Tuesday evening moments after launch at NASA's Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Wallops Island, Virginia.
The countdown had seemed routine and the rocket lifted off as scheduled, but then burst into a fireball seconds later. The debris crashed down on the launching area, spreading fiery debris.
NASA said on its live TV channel that no personnel appeared to be in the area.
The rocket was constructed by Orbital Sciences Corp., which contracts with NASA to supply the ISS. The company's first statement on the accident, sent via Twitter, provided no insight into what went wrong, saying simply: "There has been a vehicle anomaly. We will update as soon as we are able."
The rocket was carrying a Cygnus cargo ship loaded with 5,000 pounds of gear for the six people living on the space station. It was the fourth Cygnus bound for the ISS; the first flew just over a year ago.
The launch date had originally been set for Monday, but a boat in the vicinity caused officials to scrub it at the a last minute and reschedule for Tuesday. If the launch had been successful it would have been visible along the United States eastern seaboard.