NASA will not publicly release the results of its own investigation into the catastrophic failure of a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket that launched a Dragon resupply ship into the Atlantic Ocean in June 2015.
After saying it would release a summary of the agency’s investigation, NASA passed the buck to the FAA on an accident that destroyed $118 million worth of cargo the space agency was sending to the International Space Station (ISS).
“Since it was an FAA licensed flight, NASA is not required to complete a formal final report or public summary, and has deferred any additional products related to the matter at this time,” the agency’s Public Affairs Office (PAO) said in an email.
Officials at Orbital ATK and ULA breathed sighs of relief on Thursday as the U.S. Senate voted overwhelmingly to exempt rocket engines from a sanctions bill targeting Iran and Russia.
The amendment to the sanctions measure exempted RD-180 engines used by ULA in the first stage of its Atlas V booster and the RD-181 engines Orbital ATK uses in the first stage of its Antares launch vehicle. Both engines are produced by NPO Energomash of Russia.
In announcing its plan to send two people around the moon using the Falcon Heavy and Dragon 2 in 2018 before NASA can do so using its own rocket and spaceship, SpaceX paid tribute to the space agency that has funded its rise.
“Most importantly, we would like to thank NASA, without whom this would not be possible,” SpaceX said in a statement. “NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which provided most of the funding for Dragon 2 development, is a key enabler for this mission.”
NASA funding has been behind Elon Musk’s company every step of the way as SpaceX has developed Dragon and the Falcon 9 booster upon which the Falcon Heavy is based. So, no NASA and, in all likelihood, no SpaceX.
The Annual Compendium of Commercial Space Transportation: 2017 Federal Aviation Administration Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST)
2016 Launch Events
Space launch activity worldwide is carried out by the civil, military, and commercial sectors. This section summarizes U.S. and international orbital launch activities for calendar year 2016, including launches licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST). Countries and jurisdictions worldwide that possess functional and operating indigenous launch industries are the United States, Russia, China, European Union, India, Japan, Israel, Iran, North Korea, and South Korea. Several other countries, including Argentina, Brazil, and Indonesia, are developing launch vehicle technologies.
The Annual Compendium of Commercial Space Transportation: 2017
Federal Aviation Administration Office of Commercial Space Transportation (FAA AST)
State of the Payload Industry
Space industry companies and organizations worldwide, sometimes the same as launch vehicle manufacturers but also those specifically dedicated to spacecraft manufacturing, produce these spacecraft. Commercially launched payloads are typically used for the following mission types:
Commercial communications satellites;
Commercial remote sensing or Earth observation satellites;
Commercial crew and cargo missions, including on-orbit vehicles and platforms;
Technology test and demonstration missions, usually new types of payloads undergoing test or used to test new launch vehicle technology; and
Other commercially launched payloads, usually satellites launched for various purposes by governments of countries not having indigenous orbital launch capability.
Despite the successful return to flight of its Antares booster less than three weeks ago, Orbital ATK will launch its next Cygnus cargo ship to the International Space Station aboard an United Launch Alliance Atlas V.
“Orbital ATK has responded to NASA’s needs for enhanced schedule assurance for cargo deliveries and maximum capacity of critical supplies to the space station in 2017,” the company said in a statement.
Remarks attributed to Elon Musk in which he discussed a possible cause of SpaceX’s Falcon 9 launch pad firexplanomaly leaked out to the public last week after his his presentation before officials at the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO).
“We are close to figuring it out. It might have been formation of solid oxygen in the carbon over-wrap of one of the bottles in the upper stage tanks. If it was liquid it would have been squeezed out but under pressure it could have ignited with the carbon. This is the leading theory right now, but it is subject to confirmation,” Musk is reported to have said.
“The Commercial Spaceflight Federation (CSF) congratulates Virginia’s Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS), Orbital ATK, and NASA, on tonight’s successful launch of the Antares rocket and Cygnus cargo vehicle to the International Space Station,” said Eric Stallmer, president of CSF. “It’s great to see ISS commercial resupply missions flying out of Virginia’s spaceport again, carrying commercial payloads for companies including NanoRacks and CASIS, all working together to expand the commercial space enterprise in low-Earth orbit.”
The Commercial Spaceflight Federation is the leading voice for the commercial spaceflight industry. Founded in 2006, CSF and its 70+ members are laying the foundation for a sustainable space economy and democratizing access to space for scientists, educators, civilians, and businesses. CSF members are responsible for the creation of thousands of high-tech jobs driven by billions of dollars in investment. Through the promotion of technology innovation, CSF is guiding the expansion of Earth’s economic sphere, bolstering U.S. leadership in aerospace, and inspiring America’s next generation of engineers and explorers.
WALLOPS ISLAND, Va. (NASA PR) — Orbital ATK sent new science experiments to the International Space Station on Sunday aboard its sixth Commercial Resupply Services (CSR) mission. The Cygnus spacecraft blasted off from Wallops Island, Virginia atop an Antares rocket, carrying supplies for the crew along with dozens of experiments, including studies on fire in space, the effect of lighting on sleep and daily rhythms, collection of health-related data, and a new way to measure neutrons.
Launch: October 17, 2016; 7:40 p.m. EDT Launch Site: MARS Pad 0A, Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia Mission Customer: NASA
Today’s launch of Orbital ATK’s Antares rocket is postponed 24 hours due to a ground support equipment (GSE) cable that did not perform as expected during the pre-launch check out. We have spares on hand and rework procedures are in process. The Antares and Cygnus teams are not currently working any technical issues with the rocket or the spacecraft.
The Antares booster set to lift off on Sunday evening is a re-engineered version of a launch vehicle that exploded spectacularly after launch nearly two years ago.
The key change is the replacement of two Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ-26 engines in the first stage with RD-181 engines produced by NPO Energomash of Russia. The new engines are powered by liquid oxygen (LOX) and kerosene.
Launch: NET October 16, 2016; 8:03 p.m. EDT Launch Site: MARS Pad 0A, Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia Mission Customer: NASA
Orbital ATK’s OA-5 mission launch operations remain on track as the team works toward a night launch on Sunday at 8:03 p.m. EDT from NASA Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Given local weather conditions, the launch will be visible from the East Coast. Get more detailed information on launch viewing here.
The launch was expected earlier in the week, but was postponed as hurricane Nicole hit Bermuda where a launch-critical NASA tracking station is located. NASA confirmed today that the site experienced minor damage that has been repaired and the Bermuda team is preparing to support the launch.
The upgraded Antares rocket carrying the S.S. Alan Poindexter Cygnus spacecraft rolled to the pad yesterday and was raised to the vertical position this morning. Pad integration is underway.
The mission team will hold a Launch Readiness Review (LRR) tomorrow from 3:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m. EDT, which is when the final decision to proceed to launch will be made. A NASA pre-launch press conference will be shown live at 6:00 p.m. via NASA TV.
Watch this page for Orbital ATK mission updates, and get the latest launch information on our social media channels, including Twitter, Instagram, Flickr and Facebook!
Update: The mission has been postponed to no earlier than Sunday, Oct. 16 at 8:03 p.m. EDT due to hurricane Nicole.
Mission Update – October 10, 2016
Launch Site: MARS Pad 0A, Wallops Flight Facility, Virginia Mission Customer: NASA
In coordination with its NASA customer, Orbital ATK has rescheduled the launch of the OA-5 CRS mission for Friday, October 14. The updated schedule now includes roll-out of the Antares rocket to the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport launch pad on Wednesday, October 12. Liftoff of the Antares rocket on October 14 is planned for 8:51 p.m. (EDT), with the rendezvous of the “S.S. Alan Poindexter” Cygnus cargo logistics spacecraft with the International Space Station expected at approximately 6:05 a.m. (EDT) on Monday, October 17.