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Feel the Antares rocket explosion in close-up, lens-shattering footage

New video footage from October's accidental explosion of an Antares rocket shows the intense force felt at the launch pad.

Eric Mack Contributing Editor
Contributing editor Eric Mack covers space, science, climate change and all things futuristic. His encrypted email for tips is ericcmack@protonmail.com.
Eric Mack

Footage of the blast a few seconds after launch. Video screenshot by Eric Mack/CNET

The first stage of an Antares rocket puts out hundreds of thousands of pounds of force to overcome gravity and lift its payload up into space. Now imagine taking all the potential energy stored in the rocket's fuel that allows it to perform this impressive feat and lighting it all at once. What would it feel like to have a front row seat for an explosion of that magnitude?

The below video answers the question in bone-jarring detail. The footage shot from multiple angles just beyond the launch pad comes from launch photographers from Zero-G News and AmericaSpace.com who just recently were able to retrieve their equipment and footage from the site of the Orbital Sciences Corp. unmanned Antares rocket explosion on the Wallops Island, Va., flight facility.

Something clearly goes wrong a few seconds after lift-off, but it's a few seconds after that, when the rocket hits the ground, causing a second explosion strong enough to crack the lens of one of the cameras, that you can almost feel the force of the shock wave watching this footage.

No one was injured in the mishap involving the unmanned rocket on October 28 in which engine failure is suspected as the cause, although damage was done to the launch facility. The site had been locked down for an investigation, which is why the photographers were only able to retrieve this footage now. Check it out below for a graphic illustration of the high stakes involved in space exploration.