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Antares Rocket Explosion: Wreckage Could Yield Clues to Cause

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Investigators searched the wreckage of Orbital Sciences Corp.'s Antares rocket on Wednesday in hopes of determining what caused it to explode. The unmanned rocket burst into flames Tuesday night shortly after launching from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on a supply mission to the International Space Station. Orbital Sciences said that its 140-foot rocket and its cargo were worth approximately $200 million. It's not clear what caused the explosion. David Thompson, CEO of Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital Sciences, told investors in a conference call that the '60s-era Russian engines used in the first stage of the launch had provided "some serious technical and supply challenges in the past," and that he expected to find answers within the next few weeks.

While nobody was injured, several students watched as their science projects aboard the rocket were destroyed. NASA space station flight engineer Barry Wilmore told Reuters that astronauts aboard the ISS had supplies to last for four to six months. "It's our job to not overreact to this," William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations, told reporters. "I don't want to be in a posture where we have to stand down for two or three years just to go through extra investigations."

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— NBC News, Reuters and the Associated Press

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