Russian space station resupply rocket launches, doesn't explode

"Launching rockets is an incredibly difficult undertaking," William Gerstenmaier said.
By Brooks Hays  |  Oct. 29, 2014 at 11:46 AM
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WASHINGTON, Oct. 29 (UPI) -- A day after a space station resupply rocket exploded in midair only seconds after launching from Wallops Island, in Virginia, the Russian space agency made things look embarrassingly easy -- successfully linking up a ship full of precious cargo with the International Space Station.

Launched early Wednesday morning, the Progress M-25M spacecraft (also known as 57P) docked and delivered supplies to ISS astronauts only hours after taking off from Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The cargo ship was carried into space by a Russian Soyuz rocket -- three tons of supplies in tow.

The successful launch and linkup completed a reversal of fortunes and upturned the recent narratives surrounding the space programs of the U.S. and Russia. A series of high profile mistakes have had Russian space officials blushing in recent months, while commercial space flight companies in the U.S. have forged ahead with expanding capabilities and new, improved technologies.

But with the explosion of Orbital Sciences' Antares rocket Tuesday evening -- just a day after its the launch was postponed by the unexpected presence of a stray boat -- Russia's tried and true Soyuz rockets are looking a bit better.

Tuesday's explosion not only destroyed the robotic cargo ship and rocket built by the Virginia-based company, but also obliterated more than 2 1/2 tons of supply materials. NASA officials said they were investigating the mishap, but insisted ISS astronauts would manage fine without the delivery and that NASA's work with Orbital would be undeterred.

"Orbital has demonstrated extraordinary capabilities in its first two missions to the station earlier this year, and we know they can replicate that success," William Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Directorate, said in a press release after the incident.

"Launching rockets is an incredibly difficult undertaking, and we learn from each success and each setback," Gerstenmaier added. "Today's launch attempt will not deter us from our work to expand our already successful capability to launch cargo from American shores to the International Space Station."

Ahead of Tuesday's rescheduled Antares rocket launch, NASA officials predicted the blastoff would be visible (weather permitting) up and down the Eastern Seaboard. They didn't expect, however, that it would be an exploding fireball lighting up the skies.

Antares rocket explosion seen from passing plane. (Ed Sealing/Gizmodo/YouTube)
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