Orbital Aftermath

Damage to the Wallops Flight Facility. Image Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach

Damage to the Wallops Flight Facility. Image Credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach

Here is a look at the area around the launch pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility after the failed Orbital Antares flight. As dramatic as the scene is it appears visually at least to be less damage than I would have expected. I wonder how much damage the heat caused, can’t really tell.

I am happy to see NASA is standing behind Orbital with William Gerstenmaier, Associate Administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Directorate saying in a press release:

“Orbital has demonstrated extraordinary capabilities in its first two missions to the station earlier this year, and we know they can replicate that success. Launching rockets is an incredibly difficult undertaking, and we learn from each success and each setback. Today’s launch attempt will not deter us from our work to expand our already successful capability to launch cargo from American shores to the International Space Station.”

Below is a press release after the Wallops Incident Response Team had a look at the area:

The Wallops Incident Response Team completed today an initial assessment of Wallops Island, Virginia, following the catastrophic failure of Orbital Science Corp.’s Antares rocket shortly after liftoff at 6:22 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Oct. 28, from Pad 0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
“I want to praise the launch team, range safety, all of our emergency responders and those who provided mutual aid and support on a highly-professional response that ensured the safety of our most important resource — our people,” said Bill Wrobel, Wallops director. “In the coming days and weeks ahead, we’ll continue to assess the damage on the island and begin the process of moving forward to restore our space launch capabilities. There’s no doubt in my mind that we will rebound stronger than ever.”
The initial assessment is a cursory look; it will take many more weeks to further understand and analyze the full extent of the effects of the event. A number of support buildings in the immediate area have broken windows and imploded doors. A sounding rocket launcher adjacent to the pad, and buildings nearest the pad, suffered the most severe damage.
At Pad 0A the initial assessment showed damage to the transporter erector launcher and lightning suppression rods, as well as debris around the pad.
The Wallops team also met with a group of state and local officials, including the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality, the Virginia Department of Emergency Management, the Virginia Marine Police, and the U.S. Coast Guard.
The Wallops environmental team also is conducting assessments at the site. Preliminary observations are that the environmental effects of the launch failure were largely contained within the southern third of Wallops Island, in the area immediately adjacent to the pad. Immediately after the incident, the Wallops’ industrial hygienist collected air samples at the Wallops mainland area, the Highway 175 causeway, and on Chincoteague Island. No hazardous substances were detected at the sampled locations.
Additional air, soil and water samples will be collected from the incident area as well as at control sites for comparative analysis.
The Coast Guard and Virginia Marine Resources Commission reported today they have not observed any obvious signs of water pollution, such as oil sheens. Furthermore, initial assessments have not revealed any obvious impacts to fish or wildlife resources. The Incident Response Team continues to monitor and assess.
Following the initial assessment, the response team will open the area of Wallops Island, north of the island flagpole opposite of the launch pad location, to allow the U.S. Navy to return back to work.

Boom!

Wow! No early word on what happened. I don’t think it will take a long time to figure this out. I could be wrong of course.

As bad as this seems and no one got hurt so it could have been much worse, Orbital Sciences is going to learn a great deal from this incident and will wind up a stronger company because of it.

I’ve not seen enough Antares launches to know what is normal but there seemed to be venting in places where it might not supposed to be. Have a look frame by frame in the video and see what you think.

From Orbital Sciences:

Orbital Sciences Corporation confirms that today’s Antares rocket launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility was not successful. Shortly after lift-off from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0A at 6:22 p.m. (EDT), the vehicle suffered a catastrophic failure. According to NASA’s emergency operations officials, there were no casualties and property damage was limited to the south end of Wallops Island. Orbital has formed an anomaly investigation board, which will work in close coordination with all appropriate government agencies, to determine the cause of today’s mishap.

“It is far too early to know the details of what happened,” said Mr. Frank Culbertson, Orbital’s Executive Vice President and General Manager of its Advanced Programs Group.“As we begin to gather information, our primary concern lies with the ongoing safety and security of those involved in our response and recovery operations. We will conduct a thorough investigation immediately to determine the cause of this failure and what steps can be taken to avoid a repeat of this incident. As soon as we understand the cause we will begin the necessary work to return to flight to support our customers and the nation’s space program.”

Orbital will provide more information as it becomes available and is verified.

Video source

SpaceX CRS-4 Launch

The SpaceX CRS-4 mission was launched earlier today bound for the International Space Station with supplies.

Arrival is scheduled for 23 Sept 2014 at 11:04 UT / 07:04 EDT when ESA astronaut Alexander Gerst will capture the Dragon cargo ship with the station’s robotic arm.

So far, nobody does launch videos like SpaceX – great in full screen.

Back to painting for me.

Video source

SpaceX Launch Coming Up

Mission:  SpaceX Commercial Resupply Services (CRS-4)

Rocket: SpaceX Falcon 9

Cargo ship: Dragon

Current Status: Postponed

Launch Date: Sunday, 21 Sept 2014 05:52 UTC / 01:52 EDT

Odds of Launch: Unknown numerics but the forecast looks great.

NOAA’s Forecast:

Friday Night Scattered showers and thunderstorms, mainly before midnight. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 72. North northeast wind around 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 50%.

Saturday Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Mostly cloudy, with a high near 83. North northeast wind 5 to 10 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.

Mission snippets:

CRS-4 is the fourth of 12 or more missions to the International Space Station.

More than 5,000 pounds of station supplies and materials to support 255 science and research studies to be conducted by the crews of Expeditions 41 and 42.

Dragon will also have as part of the cargo 20 rodents to ride in NASA’s Rodent Research Facility.

A very cool Rapid Scattermmeter to monitor ocean surface wind speed and direction.

Cabbage – well not cabbage but a relative of cabbage for investigating plant growth in space.

Delivery of a new 3-D printer – this is a great addition, I can see them doing some fabrication for different things – very good.

Special Purpose Inexpensive Satellite, or SpinSat,to test how a small satellite moves and positions itself in space using new thruster technology.

Also SpaceX has been working on landing the Falcon for reuse on “landing legs”, this time around SpaceX will try to guide the first stage to a controlled soft-splashdown in the Atlantic. The effort sounds like it is a “let’s try this and see what happens” kind of thing. It is not given too much of a chance of success but I bet the knowledge gained will be more than worth the effort.

SpaceX Dragon V2

SpaceX CEO Elon Musk recently gave us a sneak peak of the new Dragon spacecraft, the V2, being designed to transport up to seven astronauts into and back from orbit.

The V2 will land without a parachute, plus the technology makes for a built in escape system should a problem occur during launch.

I wonder how long will the transition from animation to reality take? I have a feeling not long, SpaceX is an amazing company.

Video

Dragon Makes a Splash

The Space X Dragon cargo ship splashes down.  Credit: NASA

The Space X Dragon cargo ship splashes down. Credit: NASA

There is a great video of the SpaceX Dragon leaving the space station, the video was done in a time lapse so the whole process is shown in 7.5 minutes. See it here.

Update:  This image makes a very nice desktop background.  Get yours at the Wallpaper link above!

From NASA:

SpaceX’s Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down at 3:05 p.m. EDT Sunday, in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 300 miles west of Baja California, returning more than 3,500 pounds of NASA cargo and science samples from the International Space Station.
A boat will carry the Dragon spacecraft to a port near Los Angeles, where it will be prepared for a return journey to SpaceX’s test facility in McGregor, Texas, for processing. Some cargo, including a freezer packed with research samples collected aboard the space station, will be removed at the port in California and returned to NASA within 48 hours.
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