WALLOP ISLAND, Va., July 2 (UPI) -- NASA's engineers had roughly 19 seconds of excitement in the wee hours of Tuesday morning, as the agency's Terrier-Improved Malemute sounding rocket appeared to successfully blast off from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility. But after less than a third of a minute of hang time, the rocket fell back toward Earth and walloped into the Atlantic Ocean.
"Range controllers detected a flight anomaly with the second stage Improved Malemute motor," NASA officials said in a press release Tuesday morning. In other words: a problem was detected.
"A NASA team will investigate the cause of the flight anomaly and more information will be released as it becomes available," agency officials added.
In its 19 seconds of flight, the vehicle ascended to an altitude of 27,000 feet. The suborbital rocket was intended to test a variety of technologies, including the ability to create vapor clouds that would aid scientists observing and measuring upper-atmosphere winds. The only vapor cloud the rocket made was when it splashed into the Atlantic roughly one nautical mile downrange of its blastoff point from NASA's facility along Virginia's Eastern Shore.
The launch had been postponed for four consecutive days as officials worried about boats in the hazard zone downrange. That turned out to be a prescient decision, as the area of ocean had been finally been cleared by the time the ill-fated rocket took off.