Memories of Challenger Ignited by Antares Explosion

October 29, 2014 2:07 PM

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Memories of Challenger Ignited by Antares Explosion

As I watched yesterday's Orbital Sciences rocket explosion, unpleasant memories entered my mind. Here is a quick summary. On October 28, 2014 an unmanned NASA Orbital Sciences Antares rocket exploded in the air during liftoff to the International Space Station at 6:22 p.m. EDT from NASA's Wallops flight facility in eastern Virginia. Scheduled to be the third re-supply mission, the Orb-3 Commercial Resupply Services (CRS) mission was designed to travel to the International Space Station (ISS) several days early to guarantee its arrival, and to perform operations on November 2nd. The Antares rocket faced flight delays which pushed the launch date to October 28th. Seconds into the lift-off, The Flight Termination Systems were activated, but the shut-off failed to contain the explosion. No humans died, but major damage occurred to the launch site. The surrounding launch pad area is being secured, because Top Secret cargo and classified research hardware was aboard the craft. Plus, the explosion dropped highly explosive solid rocket fuel on the ground. All computer records pertaining to the flight are on lock-down and are being secured for the accident investigation board. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is monitoring the situation as NASA and Orbital Sciences interview all personnel pertaining to the event. The failure investigation may be challenging since the event happened at night.

I know the severity of this event. For nearly ten years, I was part of a great team of scientists in NASA's Mission Control for the Space Shuttle Program. At our desks, we sat for hours before computer monitors viewing data and verifying engine operation, before and during launches. We helped succes...

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