CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — An unmanned rocket by Elon Musk’s SpaceX headed to the International Space Station on a resupply mission failed Sunday minutes after its launch in an apparent explosion. SpaceX said that an “anomaly” had caused the rocket to fail and was investigating. NASA is set to hold a press conference later Sunday.
“It is not clear what happened,” NASA said on a webcast. “The vehicle has broken up.”
SpaceX — which is headed by Musk — has made seven trips to the ISS under a contract the company has with NASA. SpaceX is the first company to complete a return trip to the space station, a feat previously only achieved by governments.
SpaceX’s mission is the latest failed attempt to resupply the International Space Station.
In late April, Russia had to abandon a trip to the ISS after its spacecraft carrying 3 tons of cargo lost control.
And last October, a cargo spacecraft developed by Orbital Sciences destined for the ISS exploded just after the company was awarded a $1.9 billion contract with NASA.
Separately, one life was lost last fall when a craft developed by Virgin Galactic intended for eventual civilian passengers exploded during a flight over California.
Sunday’s launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida was supposed to be the third attempt by SpaceX to recover the rocket that launches its spacecraft.
Typically, the expensive rockets that give spaceships their initial lift are discarded into the ocean after takeoff. In an attempt to recover and reuse those rockets, SpaceX developed a floating platform for the ejected rocket to land on.
SpaceX has made two previous attempts to land the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket — once in January and again in April. Both attempts at landing failed.
The ability to recover launch rockets is expected to move space travel further toward a future in which people, satellites and other items can be inexpensively launched into orbit.
SpaceX plans to launch its first rocket with humans on board in 2017.