Investigation into 'Anomaly' That Caused Rocket Explosion to Be Lengthy

Officials look to figure out what caused the launch of a cargo rocket to fail six seconds after liftoff.
9:36 | 10/29/14

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Transcript for Investigation into 'Anomaly' That Caused Rocket Explosion to Be Lengthy
Doctor. Okay. Yeah. That fireball exploding in the dark Virginia sky an unmanned rocket loaded with supplies for the International Space Station. Rips apart and burst into flames in front of everyone. Now the big question is what went wrong hello everyone I'm Michelle Franzen here in New York no one. Fortunately was injured in that explosion now NASA and the contractor that built the commercial rocket. Are trying to find out the source of the failure ABC's Karen Travers at the scene and wallets island Virginia. And joins us now with the latest Karen. Good afternoon Michelle officials at their first good look at the debris from that massive explosion last night that. Lit up the sky and was seen for miles. Officials from Orbital Sciences the company that own that rockets say. They aren't sure what happened ends is going to be a very lengthy and very thorough process. The investigation is underway into what caused this fiery rocket failure something went wrong and we will find out what that is. Region. Rocket on. Wallets island Virginia and eat. The self destruct button was quickly pushed down more explosions. I. God the young man rocketing cargo valued at 200 million dollars erupted into a massive ball of flames there were no injuries and no we lost was hardware. Including 5000 pounds of equipment and supplies. Food in parts for the crew of the International Space Station would be up on you work for them to do want orbit and plumbing supplies on orbit to keep them. Going for quite some time. Students from Texas eagerly watched last night's launched a science experiment on board on its way to the space station one of eighteen chosen from schools across the nation and it really disappointing to see all of our work off that plane. Resupply missions to the space station the past were done by NASA shuttles but that program ended in 2011. The government space agency is now paying billions of dollars to private companies like Orbital Sciences and SpaceX to make these trip. Orbital Sciences next launch was scheduled for April that Michelle right now that's on hold as they investigate what went wrong. And also repair that very heavily damaged launch pad and shall. Well Karen there's also been some criticism a book Orbital Sciences over the outdated engines. That were used what are you hearing about this and are they talking about that. Michelle some of that criticism has come from competitors of Orbital Sciences but it boiled down to the fact that they say that the company has used weed herb is old Russian engines in some of these rockets. Today a top official at the company told ABC news that. They have thoroughly tested those engines right now they don't believe it played a factor in last night's explosion but of course they say it's still too early to say exactly what what what happened. But they also pointed out that there are very few rockets in the United States that actually use American engines Michelle. Karen Travers from wallets island Virginia thank you very much. Now what I bring in David Alexander director of the rice space institute joining us via Skype from rice university in Houston thanks for joining us. And for joining us more on the explosion of the and tar is rocket. David let's talk a little bit about the contractor Orbital Sciences that built this rocket first of all. What are launch leaders saying about that explosion what are you hearing. I mean articles are very very good company who have etiquette heritage and of course they don't build rockets the rockets have built by in larger rocket dying but that's you know that's that it do we that the business works is sizzle partners for the different components. So very complex system I mean this is a very unfortunate and tragic event in. It's never good to lose we want to lose Caracol luckily there was no rule like floss to Ari and the injuries but it we always want at a typical perfectly well but space you know you are you launching a law a rocket fuel air and space is a risky business and sometimes this happens. Well let's talk about that a little bit does this raise more questions over NASA's reliance on private companies to carry those vital payloads. To the space station or is this just the risk in the new space race. What think and actually raises questions I think it is I think his books as part of the risk I think this. This transition is very exciting one as the laws could companies are there including orbital. NASA has a well designed climbed for doing this and ultimately we much cheaper further tax pair. I'm NASA can Mingo omelet that it piston that's so cool and be on global absorbed it. And in an opening outlets orbit to private enterprise and and this is that it is thank you and this is always been a risky business. Haven't been really lucky that most flight school with our problem news and the most of it happened as little delay and this is house he wanted to big problems that can happen and it's unfortunate that it didn't. Now we heard in Karen's peace at the range safety staff had sent a destruct signal to the rocket when it detected problems before. The rocket fell to the ground what are those procedures. So they're there watching a lot of the calamity. Treat from solaris although they NG BP. Beating aspects and all the pressures and temperatures and all that information gets relayed to to the launch control and if there's any anomalies just under it to the air on the site of sixty. And what essentially do is still controlled explosion sordid via the rocket comes down when he wanted to instead of feeding often and potentially. Causing a much bigger problem I can tell you think the guy and the bullet took it delayed the launch is probably grateful that the delay the launch. I'm he didn't in the past I think this is this is part of the procedures. Is part of the safety of everyone seriously. And as soon as they spotted dot anomaly. You know within a few seconds the self destruct tourists but was it. Yeah about launch delayed from Monday due to that sailboat in the vicinity David safety is always key wobble Orbital Sciences and NASA. Look at and also learned from this disaster to keep it from happening again and how close of a call was this from being bigger. Well I think I think that what's really important is giving them time to get older PCs together I'm its updated at a complex system. On this very many different parts and I'm and trying to isolate the problem will take a lot of investigation. They'll go finalize all the camera fifties as many cameras around high resolution cameras around the system bourse from mass and orbits will have their own cameras. The look at the telemetry data look at all of those number rose to see it what if there was anything that did indicates our. The it definitive date too tall on the hop and they'll analyze the debris and see if the sanity in Arabic can bring it together and then the big question is is this a one off as it's something that just went wrong because souls. You know some small error. And and one of the systems or is a systematic problem with the engine and the course these engines are very well tested. There are very real tested engines. Gil let us let us yet. So elusive have devoted to Diana to develop a drug testing before leading flying and I she said sixties the crucial aspect neither orbital. SpaceX remedies other companies and NASA will fly an estimated don't think is peppered were safe by us the incident yesterday assured you can never be. You know 100% Sefton and does not going to be a problem. So how do you compare that to say this other cargo rocket of supplies that was launched from Kazakhstan a Russian rocket using. What was described as newer engines then the rocket. That had the disaster today what can you compare those two. Well yeah I mean I mean I think that says so that progress launch candidate to successfully and has not been without its own problems that this one went well. And it's got the same can heritage designs of the Yankees Ortiz three Russian engines. Again as a loan modification. That goes on that they did a lot of the rock I think the rockets and heritage of the Russian rockets is like 1982. Where's the heritage from the true that it orbital was a little bit older but again. These are rockets though worked on in tested. With more than technologies and and and modern equipment so so yeah they're they're all designs. But and there are some comparisons between. The one that launched today in the one that didn't launch a city but again all of these rockets about the potential for having a problem. And it's just. It's just the the diligence that they are to people working on and hope to prove carefully to take everything. The sixty it'll launch procedures the weather. Two to make sure everything goes ms. Ling. Bucky common bacteria it's a risky business and you never know. And unfortunately yesterday we were Weaver given an example of what we torn down. David Alexander from rice space institute thank you very much for joining us today and my pleasure Michelle Buteau NT. You can of course keep up with this story in real time by downloading the ABC news app and starring this story. Fort exclusive updates on the go for now I'm Michelle Franzen a New York.

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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