Rocket operator used destruct system to blow up rocket

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After it became apparent there was a problem with the launch of the NASA-contracted Antares rocket, the company that operated the flight hit the destruct button, a spokesman said Thursday.

The flight termination system was engaged, confirmed Barron Beneski, vice president of corporate communications at Orbital Sciences Corp., in an email.

Mark Kelly, retired NASA astronaut and SpaceX advisory board member, said it was the right call.

“They commanded the destruct system to make sure it didn’t wind up in a populated area when they knew it wasn’t going to make it to orbit,” he said.

The unmanned rocket was destroyed shortly after launch on the Virginia coast on Tuesday night.

The crash caused a spectacular fire and scattered debris over a large area.

The cargo module was carrying 5,000 pounds of supplies and experiments meant for the International Space Station.

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