A top NASA official says the in-flight explosion of a SpaceX rocket carrying cargo for the space station was ''a blow to us'' and that the failure mustn't ''cross over'' to launches that transport crew. Rough Cut (no reporter narration).
ROUGH CUT (NO REPORTER NARRATION) STORY: The explosion of an unmanned Space Exploration Technologies rocket about two minutes after liftoff from Florida was a "blow" to NASA, a top official at the space agency said on Sunday (June 28). "We lost a lot of research equipment on this flight," NASA Associate Administrator Bill Gerstenmaier told a news conference. "It's a pretty important loss to us," he said. The rocket explosion destroyed a cargo ship bound for the International Space Station, in the latest in a string of mishaps in supplying the orbiting outpost. The 208-foot-tall (63-meter) Falcon 9 rocket, built and flown by the company known as SpaceX that is owned by technology entrepreneur Elon Musk, had previously made 18 successful launches since its 2010 debut. Those included six cargo runs for NASA under a 15-flight contract worth more than $2 billion. The International Space Station crew - two Russian cosmonauts and an American astronaut - has about four months of food and supplies on board, so the accident does not pose an immediate problem for them. SpaceX holds a second NASA contract, worth up to $2.6 billion, to upgrade its Dragon capsule to fly astronauts to the station. The accident soon after liftoff from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station was the second successive botched mission to resupply the space station. A Russian Progress cargo ship failed to reach the outpost in April following a problem with its Soyuz launcher. Russia plans to launch a replacement capsule on Friday. "We still need to understand the progress failure that occurred and we need to make sure that progress failure doesn't cross over into the Soyuz launch vehicle that launches crew," Gerstenmaier said. The cause of the explosion was not yet clear, officials said. A preliminary analysis indicated a problem with the rocket's upper-stage engine, SpaceX founder Elon Musk said on Twitter. An investigation into the explosion will ground the Falcon 9 rockets for "a number of months or so" but less than a year, SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell told the news conference.