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The rocket explosion that destroyed a cargo vessel bound for the International Space Station Tuesday (Oct. 28) also took out an asteroid-mining company’s first spacecraft.
Orbital Sciences Corp.’s Antares rocket exploded in a huge fireball just seconds after launching from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia Tuesday evening. The crash caused no injuries but destroyed Orbital’s unmanned Cygnus capsule, which was toting 5,000 lbs. (2,268 kilograms) of food, supplies and other gear to the International Space Station for NASA.
Among Cygnus’ cargo was the Arkyd 3 satellite, a tiny technology demonstrator built by asteroid-mining firm Planetary Resources. [Orbital Sciences’ Antares Rocket Explosion in Pictures]
The plan was to deploy Arkyd 3 (also known as A3), which measured just 12 by 4 by 4 inches (30 by 10 by 10 centimeters), from the space station into free-flying low-Earth orbit, where it would test out avionics, control and other systems for future asteroid-prospecting spacecraft.