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Looking at ORB-3 Antares Telemetry

By Keith Cowing on October 30, 2014 7:41 PM.

Orbital's Statement Regarding Orb-3 Launch Mishap (UPDATE)

"Telemetry data has been released to Orbital and our engineers presented a very quick look assessment to the Accident Investigation Board at the end of the day. It appears the Antares vehicle had a nominal pre-launch and launch sequence with no issues noted. All systems appeared to be performing nominally until approximately T+15 seconds at which point the failure occurred. Evidence suggests the failure initiated in the first stage after which the vehicle lost its propulsive capability and fell back to the ground impacting near, but not on, the launch pad. Prior to impacting the ground, the rocket's Flight Termination System was engaged by the designated official in the Wallops Range Control Center."


Beth Robinson Heads to ALPA

By Keith Cowing on October 30, 2014 6:27 PM.

ALPA Names Dr. Elizabeth Robinson as Its New Chief Financial Officer

"Today, the Air Line Pilots Association, International (ALPA) announced that Elizabeth Robinson, PhD, will be joining the Association as director of Finance and chief financial officer (CFO) on November 3, 2014. Robinson will lead ALPA's finance team. Robinson comes to ALPA from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), where she held the position of CFO since 2009. "Having worked with her in the past, I'm confident in her tremendous ability," said ALPA's general manager Lori Garver. "I look forward to her bringing her expertise and commitment to ALPA."


Haven't I Seen That Spacecraft Before?

By Keith Cowing on October 30, 2014 4:06 PM.

Keith's note: I was immediately struck by the similarity of this image (much larger uncropped version) that Lockheed Martin released today of Orion and a shot from the iconic "2001: A Space Odyssey". Or maybe I am just thinking a little bit to much about "2001" as I prepare to see "Interstellar" next week.

Orion Is Complete, Lochkeed Martin

"NASA and Lockheed Martin have completed final assembly and testing of the Orion spacecraft. The spacecraft will remain inside NASA's Launch Abort System Facility at Kennedy Space Center until it rolls to launch pad 37 in November."


Are New Russian Engines a Good Thing for an American Rocket?

By Keith Cowing on October 30, 2014 11:42 AM.

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Are Old Engines Good For New Rockets?

By Keith Cowing on October 30, 2014 11:26 AM.

40-Year-Old Russian Engine at Heart of Rocket Investigation

"The thing to keep in mind in all this is that we don't know what caused the mishap," Cowing cautions. "We all saw the explosion at the bottom of the rocket, but that doesn't mean anything. These investigations take time, and sometimes we don't even end up with all the answers."

Did Soviet-era engines doom Antares?, Mad Science Innovation

"Not that older equipment is necessarily flawed. NASA Watch publisher Keith Cowing, with whom I also spoke on the phone today, says: I don't necessarily have a problem with old stuff, if you maintain it. If it used to work, it still can work. There are DC-3s in Antarctica that have been rebuilt three times that fly people to the South Pole. It's the issue of, does the machinery do a task that you need it to do? Do you understand it well enough that you can maintain it in operating condition, and does it make sense financially?"

NASA, Orbital Sciences Begin Antares Loss Investigation, Aviation Week

"Although investigators are keeping their options open, a prime suspect is expected to be a potential failure mechanism involving the AJ-26, a liquid oxygen/kerosene-powered engine originally developed for the Russian space program as the NK-33. An AJ-26 slated to power an Antares on a mission to the ISS in 2015 experienced a failure during a hot-fire test at NASA's Stennis Space Center in Mississippi on May 22."


Wallops Damage Report

By Keith Cowing on October 29, 2014 7:53 PM.

Wallops Completes Initial Assessment after Orbital Launch Mishap

"The Wallops Incident Response Team completed an initial assessment Wednesday of Wallops Island, Virginia, following the catastrophic failure of Orbital Science Corp.'s Antares rocket shortly after liftoff Tuesday from Pad 0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia."


Asteroid Redirect Mission Critique

By Keith Cowing on October 29, 2014 4:26 PM.

Human spaceflight: Find asteroids to get to Mars

"Some options are better than others. The cost and complexity of human space exploration demands that each element be measured by its value towards the ultimate goal: Mars. But NASA's stated next priority will not contribute to that aim. Its Asteroid Redirect Mission (ARM)2 is a multibillion-dollar stunt to retrieve part of an asteroid and bring it close to Earth where astronauts can reach it. It will require an ancillary spacecraft deploying either a huge capture bag or a Rube Goldberg contraption resembling a giant arcade-game claw. Neither technology is useful for getting humans to Mars."

- Bolden's Confusing Asteroid Mission Rationale (Revised), earlier post
- Congress, NAC, SBAG, Question Asteroid Mission, earlier post
- Report of the Small Bodies Assessment Group Asteroid Redirect Mission Special Action Team, 30 July 2014 (Draft), earlier post
- SBAG Asteroid Redirect Mission Special Action Team, July 2014 presentation, earlier post
- Asteroid Experts Are Not Very Fond of NASA's Asteroid Mission, earlier post


ORB-3 Loss: Business Aftershocks

By Keith Cowing on October 29, 2014 1:44 PM.

Rockets blow up; we move on, Leroy Chiao, CNN

"Without a doubt, critics will arise and question why we are entrusting cargo deliveries and future crew exchanges to commercial companies. The answer is simple: It is the logical evolution of technology and commercialization, following the same path as the development of the airplane and commercial air transportation."

Alliant Tech Evaluating Merger Plans After Orbital Rocket Explosion, WS Journal

"Alliant Techsystems Inc. said it is evaluating any potential implications from Tuesday night's explosion of Orbital Sciences Inc.'s Antares rocket, a hint their plans to merge could be in jeopardy."

Shares in Orbital Sciences, Alliant Tech halted after Tuesday night rocket explosion, CNBC

"The Orbital Sciences' Antares commercial supply rocket blew up over the beachside launch complex at Wallops Island in Virginia. Trading in the stocks was halted so that Orbital, which has planned to buy Alliant, could hold a conference call to discuss the rocket's failure with investors and analysts."

Orbital Sciences' stock plummets after explosion

"Shares of Orbital Sciences Corp. dropped $4.35, or 14.3 percent, to $26.02 in early trading on the New York Stock Exchange on Wednesday."

Antares rocket explosion: The question of using decades-old Soviet engines, Washington Post

"Instead, all four launches of the mighty N1 Soviet rocket, which used an earlier iteration of the first-stage engines used in Thursday's launch, failed between 1969 and 1972. And as the Soviet Union abandoned the idea of putting cosmonauts on the moon, those engines languished in Russia "without a purpose," reported Space Lift Now. That was until they were snapped up by Dulles-based Orbital Sciences, which built the rocket that exploded."

Keith's note: The NK-33 (AJ-26) engines are actualy a product of Aerojet Rocketdyne - not Orbital Sciences.


ORB-3 Antares Explodes Shortly After Launch

By Keith Cowing on October 28, 2014 8:05 PM.

Orbital Antares Rocket Explodes Shortly After Launch Shocking Onlookers, SpaceRef Business

"The launch was proceeding as expected. Across the board, the Orbital team manning their stations had green lights. The weather was almost perfect. There was a sense of anticipation after seeing the launch scrubbed the day before because a boat had wandered into the range. No one could have foreseen what would happen next."

NASA Statement Regarding Oct. 28 Orbital Sciences Corp. Launch Mishap

"While NASA is disappointed that Orbital Sciences' third contracted resupply mission to the International Space Station was not successful today, we will continue to move forward toward the next attempt once we fully understand today's mishap. The crew of the International Space Station is in no danger of running out of food or other critical supplies."

Orbital's Statement Regarding Orb-3 Launch 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."

Keith's note:According to Frank Culbertson from Orbital Sciences there was an indication of problems 10-12 Seconds into the flight and that the range safety officer sent a destruct command at around 20 seconds. No idea what happened other than the rocket stopped, started to come apart, and fell straight to the ground. Crews will be in early tomorrow to start looking for debris.

Smith, Palazzo Statement on Failed Launch at Wallops Island

"Chairman Smith and Palazzo: "We add our disappointment to the thousands in the space community who worked tirelessly in support of Tuesday evening's launch attempt at Wallops Island. We are relieved to hear there are no reported fatalities, and we anticipate learning more about the circumstances surrounding the launch failure in the near future."


Wallops Launch Delayed By A Boat

By Keith Cowing on October 27, 2014 9:40 PM.

Launch of Third Orbital Sciences Mission to Space Station Rescheduled; NASA TV Coverage Reset

"The third Orbital Sciences cargo mission to the International Space Station under NASA's Commercial Resupply Services contract is scheduled to launch 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."

Keith's note: Tonight's ORB-3 launch from Wallops was delayed by a boat in restricted waters offshore. I tried to find a copy of these restrictions. Not being a mariner, this is the best that I could do at the Coast Guard website but I can't seem to find anything in it. Dan Leone found this at the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency but I am not sure if there is anything in there either. I know there are maritime channels that are supposed to be monitored. Again, I am not a mariner and profess my ignorance. But if it is this hard to find these launch restrictions, is it any surprise that someone might not know that a launch is imminent? Is just assuming that people will know ahead of time the most efficient way to prevent a lunch delay on a multi-million dollar mission? Just wondering.

I asked NASA PAO for a copy of these restrictions. WFF PAO sent me this Notice to Mariners: Wallops Rocket Launch issued by NASA WFF on 16 October 2014. I have asked NASA how this is relayed to people who might be sailing offshore.

33 CFR 334.130 - Atlantic Ocean off Wallops Island and Chincoteague Inlet, Va.; danger zone.

"(1) Persons and vessels shall only be prohibited from entering the area when launch operations are being conducted.

What is Interesting is how the NASASocial #spacetweeps more concerned about villifying the boat and its owner and not seeing a launch (without any facts as to why the boat was there or whether NASA alerted everyone adequately) than the fact that NASA tried to launch until last second when safety regulations prevailed. The system may be inefficent - but it worked. If only these space tweeps could integrate a real world quotient into how they cover and report NASA activities.


Planetary Resources A3 Technology Demonstrator Spacecraft Set for Launch

By Marc Boucher on October 27, 2014 12:21 PM.

Orbital ORB-3 Launch to Include Planetary Resources A3 Technology Demonstrator Spacecraft, SpaceRef Business

"Today's launch of an Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket with the Cygnus cargo spacecraft to resupply the International Space Station will include the first hardware from commercial startup Planetary Resources."

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Routine Commercial ISS Resupply Continues Tonight

By Keith Cowing on October 27, 2014 10:10 AM.

Photo: Antares Rocket With Cygnus on Launch Pad at NASA Wallops Flight Facility

Orbital Set to Launch Cargo Delivery Mission to International Space Station

"Pending completion of final vehicle testing and acceptable local weather conditions, the launch of the Orb-3 mission will take place on Monday, October 27, with lift-off scheduled for 6:45 p.m. (EDT) from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport located at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in eastern Virginia."

Orbital Orb-3 CRS Mission Update: How to See the Launch from Virginia and Maryland

"Lift-off of the Antares rocket is scheduled for 6:45 p.m. (EDT)"

Keith's note: Shortly after many of us in Northern Virgina see Cygnus launched we'll have a spectacular ISS flyover. According to NASA here in Reston, VA we'll see the ISS fly over at 6:49 PM for 6 minutes at an elevation of 89 dgerees heading from the North West to South East.

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Another Dragon Returns from Space

By Keith Cowing on October 26, 2014 8:49 PM.

Critical NASA Science Returns to Earth aboard SpaceX Dragon Spacecraft

"SpaceX's Dragon cargo spacecraft splashed down at 3:39 p.m. EDT Saturday, Oct. 25, in the Pacific Ocean, approximately 300 miles west of Baja California, returning 3,276 pounds of NASA cargo and science samples from the International Space Station (ISS)."

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ATLAS Is Walking. Valkyrie Remains Hidden

By Keith Cowing on October 24, 2014 6:09 PM.

ATLAS robot gets closer to walking like a human, TechGenMag

"When Boston Dynamics first revealed their ATLAS robot on July 11, 2013, the bipedal humanoid robot was a clunky, slow moving contraption tethered to a jumble of cords that performed a variety of controlled tasks awkwardly. Still, we were all impressed by the ATLAS robot's humanlike legs and frame that no doubt offered a tantalizing glimpse into the near future of robotics. Fast forward a year, and with help from the Florida Institute for Human & Machine Cognition (IHMC), the ATLAS robot has received some serious programming updates that enable it to walk like a human with more agility and control than ever before."

Keith's note: Meanwhile NASA's Valkyrie robot is nowhere to be seen.

- NASA JSC's Valkyrie Robot Tied For Last Place in DARPA Competition, earlier post
- NASA JSC Has Developed A Girl Robot in Secret (Revised With NASA Responses), earlier post
- JSC's Girl Robot Lost Competition Due to Broken WiFi, earlier post


Jumping From Near Space

By Keith Cowing on October 24, 2014 4:05 PM.

Record-breaking 135,908-ft Space Dive Sets Stage for Future of Space Travel

Paragon Completes Record-Breaking Near-Space Dive Via High-Altitude Balloon

"Today, after 34 months of intense planning, development and training, Alan Eustace, supported by Paragon Space Development Corporation (Paragon) and its Stratospheric Explorer (StratEx) team, made history with a near-space dive from a high-altitude balloon at approximately 135,000 feet. Eustace broke several records, including national record for highest exit altitude; world and national record for free fall under a drogue chute; national record for vertical speed. Additionally, he became the second person to break the sound barrier outside an aircraft."


More stories for October.

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NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 29 October 2014

NASA ISS On-Orbit Status 29 October 2014 Video in Story

Today: 57 Progress (P) Launch Status: 57P successfully launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome today at 2:09am CDT. The spacecraft proceeded with a nominal 4 orbit rendezvous with ISS and docked to the DC-1 docking port at 8:08am CDT. The Progress is delivering more than 2987 lbs of cargo to the ISS.

More updates...