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Antares Rocket Explodes On Launch 443

sneakyimp writes: The Antares rocket operated by Orbital Sciences Corporation exploded on launch due to a "catastrophic anomaly" after a flawless countdown. No injuries are reported and all personnel are accounted for. According to the audio stream hosted by local news affiliate WTVR's website, the Cygnus spacecraft contained classified crypto technology and efforts are being made to cordon off the wreckage area. Additionally, interviews of personnel and witness reports are to be limited to appropriate government agencies so that an accident report can be generated. This accident is likely to have a detrimental effect on the stock price of Orbital Sciences Corp, traded on the NYSE. The Antares rocket's engines are based on old soviet designs from the '60s. While this is sure to be a blow to NASA due to the cost, it may well boost the fortunes of SpaceX, a chief competitor of Orbital Sciences. Both companies were recently awarded resupply contracts by NASA.

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Antares Rocket Explodes On Launch

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  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @07:42PM (#48256597)

    Hey, at least they got the hard part right.

    • Tech1: "Ten, nine, eight, ... um "

      Tech2: "Seven, Bob"

      Tech1: "Oh yeah, seven, six, ...

    • by Megane ( 129182 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @11:03PM (#48257761) Homepage
      Lots of amateur videos linked here: []
    • by catchblue22 ( 1004569 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @11:09PM (#48257777) Homepage

      Elon Musk called it two years ago in this interview [].

      Musk: The results are pretty crazy. One of our competitors, Orbital Sciences, has a contract to resupply the International Space Station, and their rocket honestly sounds like the punch line to a joke. It uses Russian rocket engines that were made in the ’60s. I don’t mean their design is from the ’60s—I mean they start with engines that were literally made in the ’60s and, like, packed away in Siberia somewhere.

      • by jafac ( 1449 ) on Wednesday October 29, 2014 @12:55AM (#48258121) Homepage

        This is largely Orbital's *schtick*: they are basically in the business of repurposing old, obsolete hardware, and using them for launch vehicles. Antares is the follow-on to Taurus, and Pegasus and Minotaur are repurposed Peacekeeper stages. They're cheap. But they're really not in competition with SpaceX, because Orbital launches mainly smaller payloads.

  • Orbital (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Geccoman ( 18319 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @07:44PM (#48256615) Homepage Journal

    I have friends that worked on this rocket. Some were there for the launch. Orbital is going to have serious problems because of this.

    • Re:Orbital (Score:5, Informative)

      by brainboyz ( 114458 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @07:49PM (#48256671) Homepage

      Ya think? They're charging 1.9B for 8 launches, versus SpaceX's 1.6B for 12. Loss of vehicle on a production launch is going to rain hell on someone.

      • Re:Orbital (Score:5, Informative)

        by Geccoman ( 18319 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @07:56PM (#48256737) Homepage Journal

        And it's not the first time they've blown up rockets rather than shooting them into space.

      • Re:Orbital (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Savage-Rabbit ( 308260 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @08:51PM (#48257091)

        Ya think? They're charging 1.9B for 8 launches, versus SpaceX's 1.6B for 12. Loss of vehicle on a production launch is going to rain hell on someone.

        “I guess the question I'm asked the most often is: "When you were sitting in that capsule listening to the count-down, how did you feel?" Well, the answer to that one is easy. I felt exactly how you would feel if you were getting ready to launch and knew you were sitting on top of two million parts -- all built by the lowest bidder on a government contract.”
          John Glenn

        I suppose buying from the higher bidder does not guarantee better performance. One thing you can be sure of, the bozos who gave Orbital the contract will be first among those to escape unscathed from this FUBAR.

    • Re:Orbital (Score:5, Insightful)

      by dbIII ( 701233 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @08:29PM (#48256949)
      They probably will but they shouldn't have serious problems just because of a failed launch. You can't progress in something difficult if every setback is seen as a showstopper, which I suppose is why governments have been prepared to pay the price of an occasional rocket failure while private enterprise has been steering clear of funding it up till now.
      Nobody went broke over Apollo 1. This is nowhere near as serious.
      • Re:Orbital (Score:4, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @10:30PM (#48257639)

        The loss of Apollo 1 almost killed the entire project. 1) It set the development back so far they almost didn't make the deadline and 2) there was a LOT of "why are we doing this expensive thing anyway, and now we're KILLING people?" Read Eugene Krantz's book and it's there in other sources; lots of NASA people thought they'd be looking for jobs.

        Not only that, but it killed three of my favorite childhood heroes, Grissom, Chaffee, and White. Horribly killed.

  • by Chocolate Teapot ( 639869 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @07:45PM (#48256625) Journal
    The ISS crew will get their pizza for free now.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @07:46PM (#48256645)

    no indications of terrorism linked to the destruction of the rocket.

  • by Beck_Neard ( 3612467 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @07:48PM (#48256667)

    Is it just me or is Orbital Sciences' track record extremely poor? Something like half their rockets fail and they give nothing but excuses. Their Taurus rocket had a 33% failure rate []

    It may be time to look into how they manage their company.

    • by Nemyst ( 1383049 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @07:55PM (#48256715) Homepage
      It's even worse when you notice that their tagline is "Innovation You Can Count On."
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @07:56PM (#48256723)

    I mean it's not like it's rocket science...

  • Rocketry is Hard (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @07:57PM (#48256739)

    This is hard stuff and there will be set backs. I want as many competitors to succeed as possible. I hope they keep trying and have more success.

    As much as I think Elon Musk is cool guy right now, I don't want his companies to have a monopoly on commercial space flight, solar power and electric cars 20 years from now.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Soviet designs from the 60s, but Russian rockets are our only ride now. Aren't those also based on Soviet designs, possibly also from the 60s? If it's not a design flaw, maybe there's something about the Soviet/Russian construction process that's missing. It's probably like having somebody's cookie recipe. You swear you followed it; but your kitchen is different. There are timings and processes that the person who gave you the recipe isn't even aware of; because they're subconscious. If they find a ca

    • I think the engines at least are not just based on Soviet designs but are actual Soviet hardware from the 60's and 70s. Leftover KN-33 engines reconditioned in the US by Aerojet and redesignated as AJ26-62. [] I can't say anything about whether that is good or bad for reliability.

  • This really sucks (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Teancum ( 67324 )

    Orbital Science has a strong rocket program going, and has been able to deliver in the past. At best, this simply shows how even the best can get caught off guard with some stupid little thing that you didn't nail down prior to the launch. It is also why this is called "rocket science", where literally every rocket launch is an experiment to see if the current configuration is going to work or not.

    In this case it didn't. The after-action engineering review is going to be brutal for the Orbital engineers,

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I thought Orbital Science actually had a rather poor record in recent years, this may just be the final nail in their coffin.

    • OSC does NOT have a strong program. The fact is, that Antonio has continued to give up all of the design and construction to others. OSC owns less of this rocket, than ULA owns of their atlas first stage.
      Go look at Pegasus and the various Minotaurs/Taurus launch systems and you will see that they do NOT have a great track record.
  • by Type44Q ( 1233630 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @07:57PM (#48256751)
    What I want to know is if there's any truth to the rumors that Musk was seen leaving the area with an empty Stinger launch on one shoulder and a shit-eating grin on his face...
  • OT (Score:5, Funny)

    by sootman ( 158191 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @08:01PM (#48256767) Homepage Journal

    Dear Slashdot,

    I fail to see how the 13-year-old story about game design, "A 'Vow of Chastity' For Game Designers" [], is a related story, as indicated in the panel below the story between the "previous story" and "next story" links. Seriously, WTF? Less than worthless.

  • ...that if we can't ask the Russians how to do these things reliably, "we can at least ask the Indians who went to Mars recently."

  • by grouchomarxist ( 127479 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @09:02PM (#48257149)

    Video of the Orbital Sciences Explosion at Wallops from a Cessna flying at 3000ft []. Note that the video is pretty noisy so you'll want to turn your sound down.

  • 40 year old engine. (Score:5, Informative)

    by Bo'Bob'O ( 95398 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @09:16PM (#48257245)

    The summery isn't quite correct. The engines aren't based on an engine from the 60s. These -are- the engines built by the soviets in the 1970s. These things are 40 years old.

    The RD-180s used by the Atlas-V are built new, despite their relationship to the abandoned Energia/Buran. The NK-33s that are used by the Antares sat for decades in a Russian warehouse.

  • As I said earlier (Score:5, Interesting)

    by WindBourne ( 631190 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @10:00PM (#48257467) Journal []"> Antares will launch less than 20 times in its lifetime. In fact, probably less than another 5. NASA is not likely going to use them to provide goods for the ISS since they are expensive for what they bring.
    OSC is a company that really has NO control of its systems. Basically, it farms out most everything, so it must depend on all others. Even now, the Antares uses old Russian engines, and counted on Russia to do the quality control.

    Until OSC controls all aspects of its systems, similar to how SpaceX works, they will NEVER be able to do a launch system reliably.
  • Rearden Rocket (Score:5, Interesting)

    by PopeRatzo ( 965947 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @10:57PM (#48257739) Journal

    You're going to love this: []

    Another great victory for the private sector. Rocket science is hard. It's not like we've been launching rockets for half a century or anything.

  • Sabotage (Score:4, Funny)

    by uvajed_ekil ( 914487 ) on Tuesday October 28, 2014 @11:26PM (#48257853)
    Hmm, now who would want to see Orbital fail? Would anyone stand to benefit from that? Any companies that they are competing with for contracts or investment? Hmm...

"Never face facts; if you do, you'll never get up in the morning." -- Marlo Thomas