Tags: nasa | explosion | commercial | rocket

NASA Vows to Continue Commercial Rocket Plan After Explosion

NASA Vows to Continue Commercial Rocket Plan After Explosion
(NASA/Joel Kowsky/EPA/Landov)

Wednesday, 29 October 2014 09:41 AM

The U.S. vowed to continue its commercial space launch program just hours after a rocket carrying supplies to the International Space Station exploded over a Virginia launch pad.

The unmanned Orbital Sciences Corp. rocket burst into an orange fireball yesterday above the National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia’s eastern shore. Orbital, which is leading an investigation into the cause of what NASA called a “catastrophic anomaly” at 6:22 p.m. yesterday, declined in pre-market trading today.

The explosion, which caused no injuries, is a setback for the approach to space cargo flights taken by the U.S. since NASA retired the space shuttle in 2011. The agency now relies on Orbital and closely held SpaceX to ferry supplies to the space station, and the Russians to carry U.S. astronauts there.

While “disappointed” that Orbital’s attempt at a third mission to resupply the shuttle failed, “we will continue to move forward toward the next attempt once we fully understand today’s mishap,” Bill Gerstenmaier, a NASA associate administrator, said in a statement yesterday.

The explosion “will not deter us from our work to expand our already successful capability to launch cargo from American shores to the International Space Station.”

The failure of the Antares rocket won’t cause the space station crew to run out of food or other supplies, he said.

Shares Fall

Dulles, Virginia-based Orbital Sciences fell 15 percent to $25.95 at 7:39 a.m. in New York before the start of regular trading, extending a decline that began after the accident. The shares rose 30 percent this year through yesterday’s close.

“The failure may hamper, but not prevent, Orbital from signing contracts with additional customers for Antares,” Howard Rubel, a Jefferies LLC analyst in New York, said in a note to clients. He rates the stock as “buy.”

Orbital Sciences has a $1.9 billion contract with NASA that commercializes routine cargo flights previously conducted by the agency.

Orbital Sciences won’t attempt another launch until it determines the cause of the explosion, Frank Culbertson, an executive vice president for the company, said at a news conference broadcast on NASA’s website.

President Barack Obama was briefed on the explosion and will continue to get updates as more information becomes available, said Eric Schultz, a White House spokesman.

Cause Unknown

The missile was destroyed by the launch team after an unspecified failure occurred within seconds of launch, Culbertson said. The cause of the failure wasn’t immediately known and teams are only beginning to review telemetry data from the flight, Culbertson said.

“I also would like to have those answers,” he said in response to a reporter’s question about what went wrong.

The initial failure occurred about 10 to 12 seconds after the lift off and the missile was destroyed within 20 seconds, Culbertson said.

The company has “reams and reams” of telemetry data that was radioed from the rocket to the ground during the launch attempt and will be useful in determining what failed, he said.

U.S. Senator Bill Nelson, a Florida Democrat who flew on the space shuttle Columbia in 1986, said in an e-mailed statement that the “inherently risky” business of space travel shouldn’t deter the government’s program.

“As we push the frontiers of space there will be setbacks,” Nelson said. “But our commercial space ventures will ultimately be successful.”

Challenger Explosion

The history of space launch attempts since the 1950s includes numerous failures of rockets, which are barely controlled explosions of oxygen-rich fuel.

The space shuttle Challenger exploded during launch in 1986 when a leak developed on one of its rockets. Columbia was destroyed during reentry into Earth’s atmosphere in 2003. In that case, tiles designed to protect the craft from the heat of reentry were damaged during its earlier launch. The two accidents killed 14 crew members.

The space station crew orbiting the Earth has enough supplies to last into next year, Michael Suffredini, NASA’s manager of the station, said at the briefing. Other rockets are also available to deliver supplies to the station in coming weeks, Suffredini said.

“We’re in good shape,” he said.

Propellant Packed

Former NASA astronaut Mark Kelly said in an interview on CNN that the rocket was packed with fuel needed to get the payload to the space station.

“It takes a lot of propellant to take a spacecraft of that size moving 25 times the speed of sound,” Kelly said. “When it fails, it’s usually pretty catastrophic.”

The mission was the fifth attempted launch of the Antares rocket and its third to pair the rocket with Orbital’s Cygnus cargo logistics spacecraft. The capsule carried 5,050 pounds (2,290 kilograms) of supplies for the station and was named for the late Donald “Deke” Slayton, an original Mercury astronaut, Orbital Sciences said on its website.

The privately developed Antares is a medium-class launch vehicle that can power spacecraft weighing up to 14,000 pounds into low-Earth orbit, the company said.


© Copyright 2019 Bloomberg News. All rights reserved.

   
1Like our page
2Share
US
The U.S. vowed to continue its commercial space launch program just hours after a rocket carrying supplies to the International Space Station exploded over a Virginia launch pad. The unmanned Orbital Sciences Corp. rocket burst into an orange fireball yesterday above the...
nasa, explosion, commercial, rocket
814
2014-41-29
Wednesday, 29 October 2014 09:41 AM
Newsmax Media, Inc.
 

Newsmax, Moneynews, Newsmax Health, and Independent. American. are registered trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc. Newsmax TV, and Newsmax World are trademarks of Newsmax Media, Inc.

NEWSMAX.COM
America's News Page
© Newsmax Media, Inc.
All Rights Reserved