Washington : The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket-propelling Dragon spacecraft laden with crucial supplies to the International Space Station (ISS) exploded shortly after lift-off in Florida on Sunday.
Two virtual reality headsets to empower astronauts aboard the ISS were part of the supplies on board the SpaceX’s seventh commercial re-supply mission.
“We are disappointed in the loss of the latest SpaceX cargo re-supply mission to the International Space Station. However, the astronauts are safe aboard the station and have sufficient supplies for the next several months,” NASA administrator Charles Bolden said in a statement.
The cargo included food, systems hardware, research materials, computer resources and spacewalking equipment.
It also carried a docking adaptor to prepare the ISS for future commercial missions.
The SpaceX Falcon 9 launch failure marks three cargo failures from three different launch providers in the past few months.
In April, the Russian space agency lost control of its cargo ship en route to the ISS and were forced to abandon it.
In October 2014, an Orbital-ATK Antares rocket exploded on the launch pad, preventing supplies from reaching the ISS.
“We will work closely with SpaceX to understand what happened, fix the problem and return to flight,” Bolden added.
The commercial cargo programme was designed to accommodate loss of cargo vehicles.
“We will continue operation of the station in a safe and effective way as we continue to use it as our test bed for preparing for longer duration missions farther into the solar system.”
The failure, however, does not deter the space agency from further cargo missions.
A Russian “Progress” cargo vehicle will launch from Kazakhstan on July 3 to the ISS.
“Orbital ATK, our other commercial cargo partner, is moving ahead with plans for its next launch later this year,” Bolden said.
“We will work with and support SpaceX to assess what happened, understand the specifics of the failure and correct it to move forward,” he said.
This is a reminder that spaceflight is an incredible challenge.