This still image from NASA video shows an Orbital Sciences Corporation unmanned spacecraft exploding October 28, 2014 at Wallops Island, Virginia, six seconds after launch on a resupply mission to the International Space Station. AFP PHOTO / NASA
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An unmanned U.S. supply rocket exploded shortly after lifting off from a commercial launch pad in Virginia, the first disaster since NASA turned to private operators to run cargo to the International Space Station.The 14-story Antares rocket, built and launched by Orbital Sciences Corp, blasted off from the Wallops Flight Facility at 2222 GMT on Tuesday but burst into flames moments later and plunged back to the ground in a massive ball of fire and smoke.The craft was carrying a Cygnus cargo ship bound for the station, a $100 billion research laboratory owned and operated by 15 nations that orbits about 260 miles (418 km) above Earth.Russia's Roskomos space agency said it was ready to help ferry extra U.S. cargo to the International Space Station if NASA requested such assistance.Virginia-based Orbital Sciences is one of two companies NASA has hired to fly cargo to the station after the space shuttles were retired.The second U.S. supply line to the station is run by privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, which is preparing for its fourth flight under a separate $1.6 billion NASA contract, slated for Dec. 9 .
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