SpaceX mission to International Space Station ends in explosion

Rocket fault leads to explosion in third failed space station resupply mission in the past year – video

An unmanned SpaceX rocket en route to resupply the International Space Station (ISS) exploded and went down in flames just minutes after lift-off.

A malfunction occurred "in the upper-stage liquid oxygen tank", SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted. The craft exploded 139 seconds into the flight on Sunday, just before the first stage of the rocket was due to break off from the upper-stage. Debris from the spacecraft rained into the Atlantic Ocean, according to the BBC.

Cargo on the Dragon SpX-7 spacecraft included computer hardware, food and care packages, "science materials" and spacewalking equipment, as well as a new docking station mechanism needed for the next generation of spacecraft to reach the ISS.

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Nasa has a second docking station mechanism that it will be sending up shortly, but will have to build a third to replace the one lost in the Atlantic.

Michael Suffredini, manager of the ISS programme, called the incident a "big loss", but added "we will pick ourselves up and get on to the next flight".

Gwynne Shotwell, chief operating officer of SpaceX, said that the investigation into the crash would last less than a year.

The rocket malfunction is the third failure to bring supplies to the ISS in the past year, following the crash of a Russian rocket in April and a launch accident of another rocket in October.

Nasa said that no negligence had occurred in the Dragon SpX-7 explosion. In a press statement, Nasa administrator Charles Bolden said: "SpaceX has demonstrated extraordinary capabilities in its first six cargo resupply missions to the station and we know they can replicate that success."

The three astronauts currently aboard the ISS have sufficient stores of food and water to last for the next several months.

The US Federal Aviation Administration has classified the explosion as a "mishap".

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