SpaceX’s rocket just exploded. Here’s why that’s such a big deal.


SpaceX’s unmanned Falcon 9 rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, Fla., on Sunday but exploded a few minutes after liftoff. It was on a mission to resupply the International Space Station. (NASA)

An unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket bound for the International Space Station exploded a couple of minutes after liftoff Sunday morning. It was the third cargo mission to the space station to be lost in recent months.

Elon Musk, SpaceX’s founder tweeted that “there was an overpressure event in the upper stage liquid oxygen tank.” He added: “That’s all we can say with confidence right now. Will have more to say following a thorough” analysis.

NASA officials said it was not clear what caused the explosion. During an afternoon press conference William Gerstenmaier, NASA’s associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said there was “no negligence here.”

The three failures from three different launch providers show “the challenges facing engineering and the challenges facing space flight in general.”

The rocket took off from Cape Canaveral, Fla., at 10:21 a.m., and everything seemed fine until 2 minutes at 19 seconds. Then video of the launch showed harrowing, if now familiar, images of a rocket exploding into a plume of smoke. The Falcon 9 was carrying more than 4,000 pounds of food and supplies to the space station, where American Scott Kelly is spending a year. There were no astronauts onboard.

The explosion also lost many student experiments and a water filtration system. Also onboard was a piece of hardware that would be used to help two new crew vehicles dock to the station.

Source : Wahshington Post

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Virgin Galactic space rocket crash: Richard Branson’s dream of space tourism suffers setback after Mojave crash kills test pilot


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Virgin Galactic’s SpaceShipTwo went down Friday afternoon, killing at least one while highlighting safety concerns that Richard Branson said could kill the space tourism industry.

Investors see private space travel as the market of the future. According to the Space Angels Network, an organization created to connect investors with entrepreneurs in the private space travel business, in 2012 the global space economy was valued at over $300 billion. The network says it is expected to grow to $600 billion by 2030.

On Tuesday, an unmanned rocket manufactured by Orbital Sciences, a Virginia company NASA has contracted to resupply the space station, exploded during its launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. This engine used in the flight, the Antares 130, is powered by old Soviet engines.

For years, Richard Branson, who owns a part of Virgin Galactic, has touted the bright future of space tourism. In February, he said that he and his children would be on the first space tourism flight.

Everybody who signs up knows this is the birth of a new space program and understands the risks that go with that,” Branson said in an interview for Weekend magazine. “But every person wants to go on the first flight.”

He even alluded to the fact that accidents could kill the industry. Right now, tickets to space cost a minimum $250,000 each.

“Space is hard, and today was a tough day,” said George Whitesides, CEO of Virgin Galactic, at a press conference. “We believe we owe to the folks who were flying these vehicles to understand this and to move forward, which is what we’ll do.”

Source : The Independent

EXPLOSION OF NASA’S UNMANNED ROCKET ANTARES


NASA rocket explodes

An unmanned Antares rocket exploded seconds after liftoff from a commercial launch pad in Virginia on Tuesday, marking the first accident since NASA turned to private operators to deliver cargo to the International Space Station, but officials said no one was hurt.

The 14-story rocket, built and launched by Orbital Sciences Corp, blasted off its seaside launch pad at the Wallops Flight Facility at 6:22 p.m. EDT carrying a Cygnus cargo ship for the space station. It exploded in a huge fireball moments later.

Orbital Sciences stock was down 12.74 percent after hours, or down $3.87 at $26.50.

The cause of the accident was not immediately known, said NASA mission commentator Dan Huot.

Huot said there were no reports of any personnel in the vicinity of the explosion. An Accomack County Sheriff’s spokeswoman added, “As far as we know, all personnel are accounted for and everyone’s OK.”

Orbital Sciences said in a statement: “We’ve confirmed that all personnel have been accounted for. We have no injuries in the operation today.”

NASA launch control said damage appeared to be limited to the launch facility and rocket. The Antares rocket has been launched successfully on four previous missions.

“This has been a lot of hard work to get to this point,” Orbital Sciences Executive Vice President Frank Culbertson told the launch team just before liftoff.

Launch had been delayed one day after a boat sailed into a restricted safety zone beneath the rocket’s intended flight path.

Virginia-based Orbital Sciences is one of two companies hired by NASA to fly cargo to the station after the space shuttles were retired. Tuesday’s planned flight was to be the third of eight under the company’s $1.9 billion contract with NASA.

The second U.S. supply line to the station is run by privately owned Space Exploration Technologies, or SpaceX, which is preparing for its fourth flight under a separate $1.6 billion NASA contract.

Outfitted with a new, more powerful upper-stage engine, the Antares rocket launched on Tuesday carried a Cygnus spacecraft packed with 5,055 pounds (2,293 kg) of supplies, science experiments and equipment, a 15 percent increase over previous missions.

Cygnus was to loiter in orbit until Nov. 2, then fly itself to the station so astronauts can use a robotic crane to snare the capsule and attach it to a berthing port. The station, a $100 billion research laboratory owned and operated by 15 nations, flies about 260 miles (418 km) above Earth.

In addition to food, supplies and equipment, the Cygnus spacecraft was loaded with more than 1,600 pounds (725 kg) of science experiments, including an investigation to chemically analyze meteors as they burn up in Earth’s atmosphere.

The Cygnus also carried a prototype satellite owned by Redmond, Washington-based startup Planetary Resources Inc., which is developing technology to mine asteroids. The satellite, designated A3, was to be released into space by a commercially owned small spacecraft launcher aboard the station.

Source : Reuters