Orbital Sciences Corp. is still piecing together the timeline of the Antares rocket explosion on October 28th, just after liftoff.
The company still hasn’t determined the root cause of the rocket’s failure. Although there were no astronauts on board, the rocket had been carrying a Cygnus spacecraft which had been intended to deliver supplies to the International Space Station. A statement released on Thursday, the 30th of October by Orbital Sciences claimed that Antares had been working normally until 15 seconds after launch, when the malfunction caused the rocket to experience a catastrophic fail.
“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,”
an Orbital Sciences public update said.
The rocket had been launched from a pad located at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, in Virginia.
Apart from Antares’ mission, Orbital Sciences holds a $1.9 billion contract with NASA, through which the company pledges to fly eight robotic missions bringing supplies to the International Space Station using Cygnus and Antares. If it had been successful, Antares’ flight on Tuesday would have represented the third official supply run to the station.
Debris in large amounts is till located around the site of the malfunction, and will be able to serve as evidence in Orbital’s investigation. Parts of Cygnus’ cargo was also located and company representatives will retrieve it as soon as possible. The launch site itself sustained little damage after initial investigations, however, some evidence of damage to piping located between fuel and commodity storage vessels was noticed.
Despite Antares’ failure to launch, astronauts currently on the International Space Station are still well supplied on the orbiting spacecraft, NASA said. Despite the fact that the crewmembers face no immediate danger because of this malfunction, there are some rearrangements that must be done. First of all, astronauts will have to alter how trash is stored in the Columbus module, officials with the European Space Agency said.
As Cygnus is designed to harmlessly burn up while entering Earth’s atmosphere, astronauts could load it up with everything they deemed unnecessary.
In an announcement on the 30th of October, European Space Agency officials said that the rearrangement of trash and stowage choreography represented one of the more unglamorous parts at the International Space Station. They added that although the strategy in place was perfectly thought out, another solution must be found as trash cannot be simply discarded with Orbital-3.