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.

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