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.


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

The Eye of Jupiter

Spooky shadow on Jupiter see by Hubble. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center) Acknowledgment: C. Go and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Spooky shadow on Jupiter see by Hubble. Image Credit: NASA, ESA, and A. Simon (Goddard Space Flight Center) Acknowledgment: C. Go and the Hubble Heritage Team (STScI/AURA)

Hubble captured “the Eye of Jupiter”. Okay, it’s not an eye at all, it is the shadow of the moon Ganymede in the Great Red Spot.

Hubble is in a seasonal mood and it does look like a 16,200 km / 10,000 mile wide eye on Jupiter.

See more at Hubblesite.


Spooky :mrgreen:

Giant Sunspot

A sunspot almost as big as Jupiter!  Credit: SDO/NASA.

A sunspot almost as big as Jupiter! Credit: SDO/NASA.

From the Solar Dynamics Observatory:

The largest sunspot of this solar cycle has now rotated around so that it is just about facing Earth. The video clip of filtered light images (Oct. 18-22, 2014) show this substantial active region is 125,000 km wide, almost as big as the planet Jupiter, and many times the size of Earth. The region appears to have the kind of unstable magnetic field that suggests it might well produce more solar storms. It has already blasted out three substantial flares and numerous smaller ones. Sunspots are darker, cooler regions of the sun with intense magnetic fields poking out through the surface. Credit: SDO/NASA.

Here’s a close up of the sunspot.

2014 UF56

A newly discovered 11-meter wide asteroid passed by Earth at about 164,244 km/ 102,056 miles or 0.43 LD (lunar distance) at 21:20 on 27 Oct 2014.

JPL Small-Body Database.

The asteroid discovery credit goes to a Mt. Lemmon Survey observation at 0521 UT 25 Oct. 2014

This asteroid will come back around in 2018 but shouldn’t be anywhere near as close according to NEODys.

Launch Day for ORB-3

Mission:  Orbital Sciences Corp Cygnus Cargo Flight for ISS / ORB-3

Rocket: Orbital’s Antares

Launch Facility Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia

Current Status: Go

Launch Date: Monday, 27 Oct. 2014 22:45 UTC / 18:45 EDT

Alternate Dates: 28 to 30 Oct.

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

NOAA’s Forecast:

Monday: Sunny, with a high near 65oF / 19oC. West wind around 11 mph. (about 9 to 10 knots)

Some areas along the US East Coast might get a glimpse of the launch. Check the maps here.

Flight notes (from Orbital Sciences):

The ORB-3 Cygnus spacecraft is named the S.S. Deke Slayton, in honor of the late NASA astronaut Donald “Deke” Slayton.

The Orb-3 mission represents the fifth launch of the company’s Antares rocket in its first 18 months of operations. It will also be the fourth cargo delivery mission to the ISS by a Cygnus spacecraft, including the 2013 demonstration flight. For Orb-3, Orbital will deliver its largest load of cargo to date, carrying approximately 5,050 pounds (2,290 kilograms) of cargo to the ISS for NASA. At the conclusion of the Orb-3 mission, the company will have carried a total of 13,378 pounds (6,078 kilograms) of essential supplies, equipment and scientific experiments to the ISS and will have removed 13,444 pounds (6,097 kilograms) of disposal cargo, a vital capability for the maintenance and operation of the Station.

After separation from Antares, Cygnus will deploy its solar arrays and undergo initial check-out. The spacecraft will conduct a series of thruster burns to raise its orbit to bring it within 4 km of the ISS prior to receiving authorization to autonomously rendezvous with the station. When the vehicle approaches to within 12 meters, the astronauts will use the station’s robotic arm to grapple Cygnus and berth it to the Harmony node of the station. Cygnus is planned to remain berthed at the ISS for approximately five weeks during which time the station crew will load Cygnus with materials for disposal. At the end of the mission Cygnus will depart the station and reenter the Earth’s atmosphere.

New Record Jump

Google Executive Alan Eustace left an abandoned airport in New Mexico in a helium-filled balloon. He later jumped from the balloon at 41.42 km / 135,908 feet.

Eustace reached speeds of 822 mph.

Only two-years ago Felix Baumgartner jumped from 39 km / 128,000 feet to set the record. Will he respond? I hope so!

Ambition – The Film

About the video from ESA (YouTube)

Ambition is a collaboration between Platige Image and ESA. Directed by Tomek Bagiński and starring Aiden Gillen and Aisling Franciosi, Ambition was shot on location in Iceland, and screened on 24 October 2014 during the British Film Institute’s celebration of Sci-Fi: Days of Fear and Wonder, at the Southbank, London.

More information.
Rosetta: the ambition to turn science fiction into science fact: http://www.esa.int/Our_Activities/Spa…

Video Source (ESA)

Mars and Comet Siding Spring

A Hubble look at Mars and comet Siding Spring. Image Credit: NASA/ESA/PSI/JHU/APL, STScI/AURA

A Hubble look at Mars and comet Siding Spring. Image Credit: NASA/ESA/PSI/JHU/APL, STScI/AURA

Have a look at this Hubble image of Mars AND comet Siding Spring in the same field of view during the close pass on 19 October. The comet came as close as 140,000 km / 87,000 miles – only a third of our Earth to Moon distance. I am trying to imagine what that would be like.

This from Hubblesite:

This composite of NASA Hubble Space Telescope images captures the positions of comet Siding Spring and Mars in a never-before-seen close passage of a comet by the Red Planet, which happened at 2:28 p.m. EDT October 19, 2014. The comet passed by Mars at approximately 87,000 miles (about one-third of the distance between Earth and the Moon). At that time, the comet and Mars were approximately 149 million miles from Earth.


The comet image shown here is a composite of Hubble exposures taken between Oct. 18, 8:06 a.m. EDT to Oct. 19, 11:17 p.m. EDT. Hubble took a separate photograph of Mars at 10:37 p.m. EDT on Oct. 18.

The Mars and comet images have been added together to create a single picture to illustrate the angular separation, or distance, between the comet and Mars at closest approach. The separation is approximately 1.5 arc minutes, or one-twentieth of the angular diameter of the full Moon. The background starfield in this composite image is synthesized from ground-based telescope data provided by the Palomar Digital Sky Survey, which has been reprocessed to approximate Hubble’s resolution. The solid icy comet nucleus is too small to be resolved in the Hubble picture. The comet’s bright coma, a diffuse cloud of dust enshrouding the nucleus, and a dusty tail, are clearly visible.


This is a composite image because a single exposure of the stellar background, comet Siding Spring, and Mars would be problematic. Mars is actually 10,000 times brighter than the comet, and so could not be properly exposed to show detail in the Red Planet. The comet and Mars were also moving with respect to each other and so could not be imaged simultaneously in one exposure without one of the objects being motion blurred. Hubble had to be programmed to track on the comet and Mars separately in two different observations.


The images were taken with Hubble’s Wide Field Camera 3.

Partial Solar Eclipse

Tomorrow afternoon there will be a partial solar eclipse that most of North America is going to get to see.  Heavy rain expected here and the eclipse being very near or at sunset, well, I’m going to miss out on the “live” version but NASA TV will be showing coverage stating at 17:00 EDT / 22:00 UT, you should be able to find it at the link in the banner.

Hopefully YOU are going to be more fortunate!  Here is a static image of the “timing map” from the video:

Eclipse Predictions by Fred Espenak, NASA's GSFC - http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/

Eclipse Predictions by Fred Espenak, NASA’s GSFC – http://eclipse.gsfc.nasa.gov/

Video source