Antares Launch Scrubbed Due to Radiation Levels

Antares rocket on the launch pad on Wallops Island. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)
Antares rocket on the launch pad on Wallops Island. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

Antares Launch Update
January 8, 2014

Early this morning the Antares launch team decided to scrub today’s launch attempt due to an unusually high level of space radiation that exceeded by a considerable margin the constraints imposed on the mission to ensure the rocket’s electronic systems are not impacted by a harsh radiation environment.

The solar flux activity that occurred late yesterday afternoon has had the result of increasing the level of radiation beyond what the Antares engineering team was monitoring earlier in the day. Overnight, Orbital engineers who are experts in the field ran numerous models to ensure that all possibilities to preserve the launch were examined. However, due to significantly elevated flux levels, the Antares team decided to postpone the launch to spend the day further examining the potential effects of the space radiation on the rocket’s avionics suite. Cygnus would not be affected by the solar event.

Today, in consultation with NASA and outside experts in the field of “space weather,” Orbital will continue to monitor the levels of space radiation with a goal of setting a new launch date as soon as possible. If we are able to launch on Thursday, the launch targeted launch time would be 1:07 p.m. (EST), with Cygnus arriving at the ISS Sunday morning, January 12.

  • Stuart

    Please forgive my ignorance but is this reason to delay a launch due to unusually high radiation levels a first?

    I must admit it’s the first time I’ve seen this reason to delay launch used.

  • mlaboy

    I asked about this over at Spaceflightnow and was quickly schooled regarding this, I don’t take credit for these answers, just passing them along

    “Spacecraft systems designed to be in orbit for any length of time
    have radiation-hardened avionics systems. — the Cygnus would have no
    problems operating in this environment. Rocket boosters, however, are
    built for a very limited purpose (and lifetime) — it makes no sense to
    build their avionics to withstand a temporarily-elevated space radiation
    environment. Because Antares will have to operate in the space
    environment prior to reaching the proper orbit, it is only prudent to
    wait out the solar flare effects. This is no different than waiting out
    bad terrestrial weather. The ISS has shielding to provide a level of
    protection, as do satellites.

    A launch vehicle, because its
    lifetime is very limited and we can decide when or when not to put it in
    space, saves mass and cost by not having to protect it from such