Today’s launch of the Falcon 9 carrying the CRS-5 mission to the International Space Station. Initial indications show an issue with actuator drift on the spacecraft, assuming it can be resolved by Friday the next attempt will be at 5:09 am EST.
Update: Elon Musk tweeted that they are investigating the upper stage Z actuator which was behaving strangely during the final stages of the countdown today.
The weather forecast for Friday’s attempt is currently showing a 20% chance of launch criteria violation due to fly through precipitation.
Following a smooth countdown the United Launch Alliance Delta IV Heavies three main engine’s came to life today to lift the Orion capsule to orbit. 18 minutes later the upper stage completed its first firing and left the Orion capsule in the desired orbit.
Over the next two orbits Orion will follow the flight profile outlined to the right before splashing down in the pacific ocean later today. The upper stage will fire once again after the first orbit to allow Orion to move further away from Earth than any crew rate vehicle has been since the last Apollo mission.
Below are images captured from NASA TV of the launch, our next update will be later today following the completion of the test flight.
The second launch scheduled today was unable to lift off due to the weather conditions over the launch pad in Kourou, French Guiana. A new launch date and time will be decided once the weather conditions have been evaluated.
The Ariane 5 ECA was due to launch the DirecTV 14 and GSAT 16 satellites
Today’s launch of the Orion spacecraft had to be scrubbed due to a technical issue with the Delta IV Heavy. During the countdown today there were several attempts made to lift off but various factors stopped that from happening. Two of the attempts were aborted due to higher than expected wind gusts during the final four minutes of the count. The issue that ultimately stopped the launch was with the fill/drain valves in the rocket core stages. Two of them had failed to close correctly and despite a valiant effort by the team they were not able to resolve it in time to launch in the window available.
Another attempt will be made tomorrow morning Friday 12/5 with the launch window again opening at 7:05am EST, the weather forecast for the launch calls for a 60% chance that the weather will violate the launch criteria.
Below are some screen grabs taken during the countdown, we will post later today with the Ariane 5 launch.
This evening a Japanese H-2A rocket lifted off with the Hayabusa 2 Asteroid Sample Return mission. Following the success of the previous Hayabusa mission this mission is designed to go one step further and return an actual sample back to Earth.
Once in orbit the second spacecraft and upper stage will coast for 90 minutes before firing again. At 1:10am EST we received confirmation that the Hayabusa 2 probe had successfully separated from the upper stage.
An H-2A rocket has never attempted such a lengthy coast period during any of the booster’s 25 previous flights.
“In this launch of the H-2A rocket, we will execute a difficult operation called a long coast operation,” said Hitoshi Kuninaka, JAXA’s Hayabusa 2 project manager, in an interview with Spaceflight Now. “For most H-2A rocket launches, the satellite is separated about 30 minutes after the launch, but for this mission, we have a long coast operation and the H-2A rocket will do one orbit around Earth and when the rocket comes back over Japan, we will turn on the second stage engine again. We accelerate the spacecraft away from Earth and separate.”
Over the next three and half years the spacecraft will travel to Asteroid (162173) 1999 JU3, Once there it will spend one and half years surveying the asteroid before departing to return to Earth expected around December 2020.
For more on the Hayabusa 2 mission check out it’s page here.
The images below were captured from the live web stream of the launch.
Elon Musk has revealed via twitter a design change to the next Falcon 9 rocket launching a Dragon capsule towards the International Space Station on December 16th for the CRS-5 mission, this flight was delayed a week to allow NASA more time to re-evaluate the payload manifest following the Antares launch failure last month.
The upgrades will allow the rocket finer control during descent back to the second introduction this weekend, the landing barge. It became clear that SpaceX were looking into this option when they challenged the patent currently held by Blue Origin for the same technology.
Autonomous spaceport drone ship. Thrusters repurposed from deep sea oil rigs hold position within 3m even in a storm. pic.twitter.com/wJFOnGdt9w
Both of these changes should allow SpaceX for the first time to realize the goal of landing a first stage rocket. Once landed the stage would need to be secured for transport back to base, although the longer term plan is for SpaceX to refuel the stage and allow it to fly back to the launch pad. However at present that isn’t an option as return to pad has not been approved by the FAA.
At this point it is not know when or if the first stage will be re-flown as there would need to be a number of tests done to verify that everything is working for another flight, only time will tell.
We will be following the next launch with interest to see just what happens and hopefully usher in a new era were re-usable rockets come another step closer to reality.
This afternoon Terry Virts, Anton Shkaplerov and Samantha Cristoforetti began there six hour, four orbit journey to the International Space Station. Launched aboard the Soyuz TMA-15M liftoff occurred on time at 14:01 pm EST. Docking and hatch opening will occur later today, we will post again following each event.
Orbital announced today that the preliminary findings of the Accident Investigation Board (AIB) point to a Turbo pump failure in one of the two AJ26 main engines on the Antares rocket.
Because of this Orbital will no longer use the AJ26 engines and will instead accelerate the migration to a new engine on the Antares. Due to the delay in completing the migration, and due to the design on Cygnus, Orbital will use an alternative launcher (to be announced) to fulfill Cygnus missions until such time that Antares is ready. Orbital will assume any additional costs for using the alternate launcher .
Orbital will continue to use Wallops for the upgraded launcher once is it ready and will fulfill any remaining flights in it’s current CRS contract with the modified Antares.
Over the weekend, Orbital confirmed the participation of the following individuals who will serve on the Antares launch failure Accident Investigation Board (AIB), which is being led by Orbital under the oversight of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). The composition of the AIB is as follows:
David Steffy, Chief Engineer of Orbital’s Advanced Programs Group
David Swanson, Senior Director of Safety and Mission Assurance for Orbital’s Technical Operations organization
Wayne Hale, Independent Consultant and Former NASA Space Shuttle Program Manager
David Cooper, Member of Orbital’s Independent Readiness Review Team for the company’s Launch Systems Group
Eric Wood, Director of Propulsion Engineering for Orbital’s Launch Systems Group
Tom Costello, Launch Vehicle Assessment Manager in the International Space Station Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center
Matt Lacey, Senior Vehicle Systems Engineer for NASA’s Launch Services Program
FAA Oversight Team
Michael S. Kelly, Chief Engineer, FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation
Marcus Ward, Mishap Response Coordinator, FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation
Antares Data Review
The AIB is initially focused on developing a “fault tree” and a timeline of the important events during the launch sequence. Due to the large amount of data available, the AIB is able to work with a rich source of information about the launch. One of the initial tasks for the AIB is to reconcile the data from multiple sources, a process that is now underway, to help create the launch sequence timeline.
Launch Site Status
Over the weekend, Orbital’s Wallops-based Antares personnel continued to identify, catalogue, secure and geolocate debris found at the launch site in order to preserve physical evidence and provide a record of the launch site following the mishap that will be useful for the AIB’s analysis and determination of what caused the Antares launch failure. The debris is being taken to a NASA facility on Wallops Island for secure and weather resistant storage.