Pea shoots and TV equipment: Here's what Nasa's exploded Antares rocket was carrying

Emma Haslett
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The rocket was carrying almost 5,000lbs of equipment (Source: Getty)

The rocket that blew up seconds after its launch last night might have been unmanned, but that doesn't mean the mission's failure hasn't cost Nasa and Orbital Sciences, the company behind it, dear.

The Antares Rocket was the third time Orbital has been contracted by Nasa to resupply the International Space Station (ISS), and as such it had some pretty valuable stuff on board - not least food for the six astronauts currently aboard the ISS (although Nasa has made it clear that the mission's failure doesn't mean ISS astronauts will go hungry - apparently they have sufficient supplies to keep them going until the next time it can launch a mission).

But it wasn't just food the rocket was carrying. Its payload included spacewalk equipment, computer resources - and a science project by the students from a school in Houston.

According to the document, the rocket's 4,883lb cargo included:

Science investigations

It takes months of work and fundraising to get approval for a project to go up to the ISS - so this is potentially catastrophic for those who lost equipment in the explosion.

  • An investigation by students from Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart in Houston testing the performance of pea shoot growth in space
  • A group of 18 student-led investigations looking into "a range of topics from a crystal growth study that will enable students to learn more about how fluids act and form into crystals in the absence of gravity to how microgravity affects milk spoilage"
  • A human health study called Brain Drain, which would have "inform[ed] understandings of blood flow in space to possibly aid in the treatment of headaches... reported by crew members living on the space station"
  • An analysis of the atmosphere to learn about the composition of meteoroid dust.


  • Crew supplies, including flight equipment, food and "flight procedures books" (15lb of them)
  • Vehicle hardware, from including equipment from the US and Japanese space agencies
  • Spacewalk equipment
  • "Computer resources", including 6.6lb of "photo/TV equipment". Does this mean we're going to miss out on more social media sensations, a la Chris Hadfield's tribute to David Bowie?

Shares in Orbital dipped 16 per cent in pre-market trading, while its chief exec, Frank Culbertson, said it is "far too early to know" what happened. Which is unlikely to come as much comfort to the students of the Duchesne Academy of the Sacred Heart...

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