An unmanned NASA-contracted rocket exploded shortly after takeoff earlier this evening, and now the rocket manufacturer’s stock price is going up in smoke.
Orbital Science (ORB), which has a $1.9 billion contract with NASA for eight supply flights to the International Space Station, had seen its stock climb nearly 3% in market trading today, ahead of the launch. But tonight it’s off more than 15.5%, falling from $30.37 per share to $25.65 per share.
That’s more than $287 million in lost market cap, and also raises questions about the pending merger of Orbital’s aerospace and defense group with Alliant Techsystems Inc. (ATK). The two companies announced the merger on April 29, when Orbital stock opened at $34.02 per share and closed at $30.96 per share. Shareholders of both companies are scheduled to vote on the deal December 9. ATK stock is unchanged in aftermarket trading.
In a statement this evening, Orbital said the following:
NASA reports that all of its personnel are accounted for, and there are no reports of injuries on the ground.
Orbital previously launched three rockets with attached cargo ships under its NASA contract (one of which was a demo). NASA also has a similar contract with Elon Musk’s SpaceX.