SpaceX Rocket Destroyed on Way to Space Station

An unmanned SpaceX rocket carrying cargo to the International Space Station disintegrated over the Florida coast just two minutes after liftoff Sunday -- the third major failure for America's commercial space industry in eight months.

The explosion was a blow to billionaire Elon Musk's SpaceX aerospace venture, which has shaken the global launch business in recent years by showing it can successfully fly rockets at a fraction of the price of other providers.

It was too early to determine what went wrong Sunday, but executives at the Hawthorne firm vowed to quickly pinpoint the problem. "We will identify the issue we experienced, fix it and get back to flight," Gwynne Shotwell, president of SpaceX, said at Sunday news conference.

The failure creates a challenge for NASA. It was the third cargo ship loaded with food, water and other supplies lost in less than a year.

"We expected ... we would lose some vehicles," William Gerstenmaier, a NASA associate administrator, said at the news conference. "I didn't think we'd lose them all in a one-year time frame, but we have."

Among the Falcon 9's cargo were parts needed for a water filtration system, said Michael Suffredini, manager of NASA's space station program.

He said the astronauts on the space station have enough food and water for about four months and that another Russian resupply ship was scheduled to launch Friday.

NASA would start planning to bring the astronauts back to Earth, he said, only if vital supplies dwindled to enough for 45 days.

Musk tweeted soon after the failure that there had been "an overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank."

"That's all we can say with confidence right now," Musk wrote.

The loss of another commercial rocket operated under a NASA contract comes at a time when the agency's critics in Congress are threatening to reduce funding. Among...

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