ASPIRE Mars 2020 Parachute Test a Success

A Black Brant IX sounding rockets lifts off from the Wallops Flight Facility with the ASPIRE experiment on board on Sept. 7, 2018. (Credit: NASA/Allison Stancil)

WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — On Friday, September 7, at 9:30 a.m., a parachute test for a future mission to Mars successfully launched on a NASA Black Brant IX suborbital sounding rocket from Wallops Flight Facility. The rocket carried the Advanced Supersonic Parachute Inflation Research Experiment (ASPIRE) from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California.

The payload is a bullet-nosed, cylindrical structure holding a supersonic parachute, the parachute’s deployment mechanism, and the test’s high-definition instrumentation, including cameras, to record data.

The payload descended by parachute and splashed-down in the Atlantic Ocean 28 miles from Wallops Island. The parachute was successfully recovered and returned to Wallops for data retrieval and inspection.

Next Antares Flight to ISS Now NET Aug. 22

The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket launches from Pad-0A with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, Sunday, July 13, 2014, at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The Cygnus spacecraft is filled with over 3,000 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket launches from Pad-0A with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard, Sunday, July 13, 2014, at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. The Cygnus spacecraft is filled with over 3,000 pounds of supplies for the International Space Station. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Media accreditation now is open for the launch of the next Orbital ATK Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Orbital ATK is targeting no earlier than Aug. 22 for the lift off of its Cygnus spacecraft on an Antares rocket from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad-0A at Wallops. The spacecraft will carry crew supplies and vehicle hardware to the orbiting laboratory to support the Expedition 48 and 49 crews.

This will be the sixth cargo resupply mission by Orbital ATK under NASA’s Commercial Resupply Services contract. Cargo resupply by U.S. companies ensures a national capability to deliver critical science research to the space station, significantly increasing NASA’s ability to conduct new science investigations using the only microgravity laboratory.

Get more information about Orbital ATK, its Antares rocket and the Cygnus cargo carrier at:

http://www.nasa.gov/orbitalatk

Get more information about the International Space Station at:

http://www.nasa.gov/station

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ISPCS Day One Review & a Mojave Engine Test

Credit: Robin Snelson
Credit: Robin Snelson

Greetings from Mojave.  I had hoped to be greeting you from Las Cruces from the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight (ISPCS — pronounced ‘Lĕh-‘nérd ‘Is-pic-us). But, my plans to leave one desert town to travel across vast stretches of desert to a larger desert town didn’t work out this year. (I don’t know why; it sounded like so much fun.)

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A Look at the ISS Flight Manifest

Credit: NASA
Credit: NASA

There was a lot of discussion on Sunday about the impact of the loss of SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft on the International Space Station. NASA officials said the ISS crew was in no danger from a supply standpoint, and they said they would stick to the existing schedule for crew rotation but might change the cargo manifest.

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No Cause of Antares Failure Identified Yet

A massive explosion occurred right after the Antares rocket hit the ground.
A massive explosion occurred right after the Antares rocket hit the ground.

A NASA/Orbital Sciences press conference just ended. Here’s are the key details:

  • Orbital’s Frank Culbertson said launch operators realized there was a failure at 10 to 12 seconds into the flight. They noted it on telemetry and visually.
  • The range safety officer activated the vehicle destruct system at about 20 seconds.
  • It’s too early to say exactly what caused the failure. Data have been locked down, which is standard procedure.
  • Culbertson says it is too soon to say how long it will take to resume flights.
  • There were no injuries in the accident, all personnel are safe.
  • Damage was limited to the southern area of Wallops Island.
  • The extent of damage to the launch pad is unknown. Some systems are continuing to hold pressure.
  • Vehicle integration facility is outside the hazard zone, officials expect to see no damage there.
  • Crews are allowing fires to burn themselves out and securing the perimeter.
  • Personnel will enter the area on Wednesday morning to begin recovery efforts.
  • Officials have warned local residents to avoid any debris they find because it might be hazardous or toxic and to notify authorities.
  • NASA officials said there was nothing crucial on the Cygnus freighter.
  • International Space Station could probably go until March without any resupply missions.
  • A Russian Progress resupply ship is scheduled to launch on Wednesday.
  • SpaceX Dragon freighter is set to fly on Dec. 9.
  • Officials might rearrange some of the Dragon manifest.
  • Orbital does carry some insurance on the rocket. Culbertson unable to say how much.
  • There are provisions in the resupply contract to reimburse NASA for Orbital’s failure to perform. No details provided.

Antares Rocket Explodes, Destroys Cygnus Freighter

Antares_Explosion
Orbital Sciences Corporation’s Antares rocket exploded shortly after liftoff from Wallops Island, Virginia. The explosion destroyed a Cygnus freighter carrying supplies and experiments to the International Space Station.

The explosion reportedly occurred about 6 seconds after launch. There was a massive explosion and then the vehicle fell back onto the launch pad. The Antares engines were throttled up to 108 percent when the explosion occurred.

The bottom of the Antares explodes right after liftoff.
The bottom of the Antares explodes right after liftoff.

Launch officials have confirmed there were no injuries in the explosion. All personnel are safe and accounted for at this time.

The cargo manifest includes 26 Planet Labs satellites that would be launched off the space station. Planetary Resources also had its first test satellite aboard Cygnus. Thee were also a number of student experiments on the ship. NASA has the full manifest.

A massive explosion occurred right after the Antares rocket hit the ground.
A massive fireball occurred right after the Antares rocket hit the ground.

This mission was Orbital Sciences’ third contracted Cygnus cargo delivery flight to the International Space Station under an 8-flight contract. Two previous contracted Cygnus missions and a demonstration flight had succeeded.

This was the fifth flight of the Antares rocket. Four previous flights had been success.

Antares uses Arojet-Rocketdyne AJ-26 engines on its first stage. These are refurbished NK-33 engines originally designed for the Soviet manned lunar program in the 1970’s. There have been problems with corrosion on the 40-year old engines; one engine exploded on its test stand in May.

The rocket’s first-stage structure is built in Ukraine. Antares second stage consists of a solid-fuel rocket supplied by ATK.

My deepest sympathies to the Orbital Sciences team and all those with payloads aboard the vehicle. It’s a bad day, but these things happen in this field. This is the nature of this business.

UPDATE: Orbital and NASA officials will have a press conference at 9 p.m. EDT (6 p.m. PDT).

Antares Launch to ISS Postponed to Saturday

Orbital-1 Mission Antares Launch
Mission Update – July 9, 2014

Orbital announced today that the launch of Antares for the Orb-2 Commercial Resupply Services mission to the International Space Station has been rescheduled for Saturday, July 12 at 1:14 p.m. EDT. Due to severe thunderstorms in the Wallops area the night of Tuesday, July 8, the rollout of the Antares rocket to its launch pad at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport scheduled for this morning was delayed resulting in a compression of the operational schedule leading to the launch. This afternoon, the company’s launch team determined the best course of action would be to postpone the launch one day to allow for normal launch operations processing. Despite the one day schedule slip, Cygnus will still arrive at the ISS on July 15 with berthing scheduled at approximately 7:24 a.m. EDT.