Thursday, October 30, 2014

Cygnus Antaries "Anomaly" Update: It Was No Accident!

Apparently the explosion of the Antares-Cygnus spacecraft was no accident. Either ground control or on-board flight termination software noticed the flight was not going well and terminated (blew-up) the Antares launch vehicle. It's too bad Cygnus wasn't designed with a launch escape system to save the cargo in this unlikely case. Many earthworms died premature deaths and many school children's hearts were broken for a lack of a recovery system. Truth be told, launch escape systems seem pretty much reserved for manned flights.

Given how space budgets work, it's only slightly more expensive to build two or more copies of a spacecraft (Cygnus, in this case) and its cargo rather than just one. This is because the Non-Recurring Engineering costs are fairly dominant in the manufacturing of spacecraft. I remember making this suggestion for the Mars (MERS) lander program. I thought it would be particularly amusing to insist on sending three landers per mission to Mars (In the 1953 movie version of War of the Worlds, the Martian spacecraft rain down from the sky in groups of three). At any rate, being able to load another Cygnus or Dragon spacecraft the backup experiments plus cargo and then re-launch it to the ISS rapidly would be a good thing.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014


I'm not going to add much to this bit of news, since it has pretty much been covered everywhere. In case you were somehow not aware, the October 28th, night-time launch of the Orbital Sciences CRS (Commercial Resupply Service) cygnus-antares vehicle didn't go off as planned. Just after clearing the tower, the rocket exploded. Given the velocity and the altitude of vehicle when it exploded (dead-slow and a few hundred feet off the ground), recovering the debris and finding the fault may be difficult, but shouldn't be impossible. I wouldn't expect anything but speculation as to why the rocket exploded for the next week or so. For instance, some are speculating that the fault had something to do with the '60s style Russian engines the vehicle was using, but I think it's way to early to tell. Besides, old Russian technology is the only way people are getting to ISS at the time being (Soyuz), so being old and Russian isn't necessarily an obvious problem in my eyes.

News Links: Private Orbital Sciences Rocket Explodes During Launch, NASA Cargo Lost
NBC news: Antares Rocket Bound for Space Station Explodes on Launch
Fox News: Unmanned Antares rocket explodes after liftoff
Space Daily: Orbital rocket explodes after launch