Orbital CRS-3 Update 10/31/2014

Antares Data Review

It is a travel day for the remainder of Orbital’s Antares data review team who were on site at Wallops Island supporting the initial “quick look” flight data evaluation on Wednesday and Thursday. At this point we believe the on-site data review process has progressed as far as necessary, so the team is transitioning back to their home bases. The Accident Investigation Board (AIB) Chairman, Mr. Dave Steffy, and members of the AIB that are now being identified, will immediately take over further development of the “fault tree” that will drive future investigation activities.

Launch Site Status

Today, the Wallops team continued to document and catalog the debris field. Yesterday’s focus was on clearing any potentially hazardous items. Current priorities are on finding, cataloging and securing any elements of the stage 1 propulsion system that will be of particular interest to the AIB, as well as any cargo that may be found at the site. The team’s goal is to complete that work today. With adverse weather predicted for the weekend, they do not want to lose any evidence or any of the intact cargo that survived the mishap. Orbital expects the process of cataloging and securing all the remaining debris to continue for several days.

CRS Go-Forward Plan

The company’s senior managers have begun developing a comprehensive plan to maintain the cargo supply line between Earth and the International Space Station, fulfilling Orbital’s commitment to NASA for the delivery of supplies for the astronaut crew, necessary equipment for the operation and maintenance of the station, and scientific experiments conducted aboard the orbiting laboratory. Details about Orbital’s approach for completing future missions under its Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) contract with NASA will be made public in the near future.

Our next update will be on Monday, November 3 to report on activities conducted during the weekend.

Virgin Galactic suffers in-flight anomaly

Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo took off today for the first powered flight in almost nine months, after a three hour delay waiting for the weather to cooperate the WhiteKnightTwo carrier plane took off and 45m later dropped the SS2 vehicle.

Soon after the SS2 began it’s powered flight something went wrong causing the vehicle to crash. Unfortunately it looks like one of the pilots didn’t survive the accident.

The NTSB are investigating the accident, following an initial review it appears that the feather breaking system was triggered too early causing the vehicle to break up, there is no indication that the rocket engine had anything to do with this accident.  This is still very early information and subject to change.

We also learned this weekend that Michael Alsbury, who was flying as co-pilot on this test, died as a result of the breakup, the injured pilot was Peter Siebold, the last update we received reported that he was awake and responding to family.

We will update once we have more news.

Orbital CRS-3 Update 10/30/2014

Launch Site Status:

Based on initial sweeps conducted by an Orbital safety team, it appears a significant amount of debris remains on the site and it is likely substantial hardware evidence will be available to aid in determining root cause of the Antares launch failure. Some of the Cygnus cargo has also been found and will be retrieved as soon as we have clearance to do so to see if any survived intact. After up close visual inspections by the safety team, it still appears the launch site itself avoided major damage. There is some evidence of damage to piping that runs between the fuel and commodity storage vessels and the launch mount, but no evidence of significant damage to either the storage vessels or launch mount. Detailed evaluations by MARS and their engineering team will occur in the next couple of days. An Orbital-led team has begun cataloging and documenting the location of all pieces of debris over the next several days after which the debris will be relocated to storage bays on the island for further evaluation.

Antares Data Review:

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.

Atlas V launches successfully with GPS IIF-8 satellite

This afternoon ULA successfully launches another GPS IIF satellite aboard it’s workhorse Atlas V vehicle. This was the third launch attempt around the world within a 24 hour period following the Orbital Antares accident yesterday and the successful Soyuz launch early this morning EDT.

This was the 8th GPS IIF satellite to be launched by ULA, the first 5 abort Delta IV and the others using Atlas V.

Following a smooth countdown the Atlas V’s RD-180 engine roared to life lifting the rocket towards orbit.  At the end of the live broadcast the rocket was coasting to it’s second Centaur firing destination, the satellite will be deployed once the second stage arrives at it’s drop off destination.

The following screen grabs were taken from the ULA live feed.

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Progress 57 arrives at the International Space Station

Fifteen hours after the lose of the Orbital Sciences Cygnus spacecraft another cargo vehicle from Russia arrived successfully at the station.  Launched just six hours before, the Progress 57 completed it’s four orbit, six hour journey to the station with a successful docking at 9:08am EDT.

Carrying almost three tonnes of supplies for the station, the craft will be remain at the station for the next six months, it will be unloaded and eventually filled with trash that will burn up in the atmosphere.

Here is a video of the launch earlier this morning

Below are some screen grabs of the docking.

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Orbital Sciences Orb-3 rocket explodes after liftoff #Orb3

2014-10-28_182331Following a scrub yesterday due to a boat breaking the range safety keep out area the Orbital Sciences Orb-3 mission made another attempt today. Following a very some and uneventful countdown the Antares rocket carrying the ‘Deke Slayton’ Cygnus lifted off on time at 6:22pm EDT, unfortunately approximately 6 seconds later a catastrophic failure occurred causing the rocket to explode and come crashing back to the launchpad.

Orbital Sciences have instigated a failure investigation team which will be led by Richard Straka, Deputy General Manager of Orbital’s Launch Systems Group. The investigation team will include representatives from NASA, Orbital, and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Wallops, Va.

Reports on NASA TV indicate significant damage to the launch pad and fires could be seen burn over a wide area after the explosion.  All range personnel have been accounted for.

This is certainly a setback for Orbital Sciences, the Commercial Cargo program and the numerous science teams that had payloads on Cygnus, it shouldn’t have too much of an impact on future launches for the other suppliers to the station.  However until the cause of the anomaly is known and resolved we seriously doubt there will be any further Cygnus launches to the station.

We will continue to update this post as further information becomes available.

ISS Spacewalk EVA-40 (184) completed successfully

The third spacewalk in as many weeks has been completed successfully by Cosmonauts Maksim Surayev and Aleksandr Samokutyayev, originally planned for approximately 6 hours the two worked way ahead of the timeline bringing the spacewalk to an end over 2 hours early.

They completed the following tasks during the spacewalk

– Removed and jettisoned Radiometriya experiment from Zvezda Plane II
– Removed EXPOSE-R experiment protective cover
– Took surface samples from Pirs extravehicular hatch 2 window (TEST experiment)
– Removed and jettisoned two KURS attennas 2ACф1-1 and 2ACф1-2 from Poisk
– Photographed exterior of ISS Russian segment.

The changes for Poisk are needed for future changes to the station where the Pirs airlock which was used for this spacewalk will be removed to be replaced by the Nauka module a new Multipurpose Laboratory Module. Once Pirs has been removed future spacewalks will be done from the Poisk module.

Below are some screen grabs from NASA TV

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ISS Spacewalk EVA-28 completed successfully

While traveling at 17,133 mph 261 miles above the Earth Astronauts Reid Wiseman and Butch E. Wilmore took a 6h 34m excursion outside the space station today to perform a number of tasks needed for the continued operation and future changes to the ISS.

The first task they completed was the replacement of the Power System 3A Sequential Shunt Unit (SSU) that failed back in May. This task had to be completed during a night pass of the station to ensure the safety of the astronauts. With only a couple of minutes to spare they were able to complete the task successfully and a while later the stations power systems office confirmed that the new unit was working correctly, The 3A power system will be re-integrated into the stations power system tomorrow.

They then moved onto the second task the relocation of a portable foot restraint and tool stanchion from the P1 truss to the S0 truss.

Next they removed a failed camera system from the P1 truss, which was returned to the station airlock. They then removed the camera stanchion as that is needed on the Harmony module,

After that the astronauts split up with Wilmore heading to the Harmony module to install the stanchion and Wiseman heading to retrieve a wireless TV antenna (WETA) which will be placed on the stanchion. The installation of the stanchion proved to be difficult with both Wilmore and Wiseman working on it for 30 minutes before finally they were able to get the bolts to catch.

Wiseman then did the initial installation of the WETA before heading back to the airlock with the failed camera. Meanwhile Wilmore remained at the site to complete the installation of the WETA before cleaning up the work site.

Wiseman then retrieve a new camera from the airlock which was installed on the P1 truss where the WETA was removed earlier. During this camera installation Houston advised the pair that the WETA was operating successfully.

This was the second spacewalk for Reid Wiseman and the first for Butch Wilmore.

Below are some screen captures of the space walk from NASA TV

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CCtCap is Back On

cctcapOn Oct. 9, under statutory authority available to it, NASA has decided to proceed with the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts awarded to The Boeing Company and Space Exploration Technologies Corp. notwithstanding the bid protest filed at the U.S. Government Accountability Office by Sierra Nevada Corporation. The agency recognizes that failure to provide the CCtCap transportation service as soon as possible poses risks to the International Space Station (ISS) crew, jeopardizes continued operation of the ISS, would delay meeting critical crew size requirements, and may result in the U.S. failing to perform the commitments it made in its international agreements.

These considerations compelled NASA to use its statutory authority to avoid significant adverse consequences where contract performance remained suspended. NASA has determined that it best serves the United States to continue performance of the CCtCap contracts that will enable safe and reliable travel to and from the ISS from the United States on American spacecraft and end the nation’s sole reliance on Russia for such transportation.

ISS Spacewalk US EVA-27 completed successfully

Today NASA Astronaut Reid Wiseman and ESA Astronaut Alexander Gerst steps outside the International Space Station for a 6h 13m spacewalk.

This was the first spacewalk for each of the Astronauts and was completed successfully. This was the 182nd spacewalk in support of the ISS for a total of 47d 14h 15m,

During the spacewalk they were able to complete the following tasks.

The first task for Wiseman and Gerst was relocating a failed cooling pump to External Stowage Platform-2 (ESP-2) just outside the Quest airlock. It was temporarily stowed on the station’s truss by Expedition 38 spacewalkers Mike Hopkins and Rick Mastracchio on Dec. 21 after they replaced the failed pump with a spare.

When they completed the pump module stowage work, the duo stowed adjustable grapple bars on ESP-2. Wiseman cleaned up the work area around the pump module.

Gerst went on to replace a light on an External Television Camera Group (ETVCG) outside Destiny.

The next task was the installation of a Mobile Transporter Relay Assembly (MTRA) on to the S0 truss right above the Destiny laboratory. The MTRA adds the capability to provide “keep-alive” power to the Mobile Servicing System when the Mobile Transporter is moving between worksites.

The Mobile Transporter can move supplies, gear and the Canadarm2 on rails along the Integrated Truss Structure, the station’s backbone. The Mobile Servicing System, which includes the transporter and Canadarm2, plays a key role in station maintenance tasks.

During the repress of the airlock, confirmation that the work on the Mobile Service System had been successfully tested was received.

Below are some screen grabs of the spacewalk from NASA TV

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