Dear readers and follower,
The Wallops Incident Response Team completed today an initial assessment of Wallops Island, Virginia, following the catastrophic failure of Orbital Science Corp.’s Antares rocket shortly after liftoff at 6:22 p.m. (local time, EDT) Tuesday, October 28th , from Pad 0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
Credit image: +Orbital Sciences and Technologies, Inc.
“I want to praise the launch team, range safety, all of our emergency responders and those who provided mutual aid and support on a highly-professional response that ensured the safety of our most important resource, our people,” announced Bill Wrobel, Wallops director. “In the coming days and weeks ahead, we'll continue to assess the damage on the island and begin the process of moving forward to restore our space launch capabilities. There's no doubt in my mind that we will rebound stronger than ever.”
The initial assessment is a cursory look; it will take many more weeks to further understand and analyze the full extent of the effects of the event. A number of support buildings in the immediate area have broken windows and imploded doors. A sounding rocket launcher adjacent to the pad, and buildings nearest the pad, suffered the most severe damage. At Pad 0A the initial assessment showed damage to the transporter erector launcher and lightning suppression rods, as well as debris around the pad.
The Wallops environmental team also is conducting assessments at the site. Preliminary observations are that the environmental effects of the launch failure were largely contained within the southern third of Wallops Island, in the area immediately adjacent to the pad. Immediately after the incident, the Wallops’ industrial hygienist collected air samples at the Wallops mainland area, the Highway 175 causeway, and on Chincoteague Island. No hazardous substances were detected at the sampled locations. Additional air, soil and water samples will be collected from the incident area as well as at control sites for comparative analysis.
The Coast Guard and Virginia Marine Resources Commission reported today they have not observed any obvious signs of water pollution, such as oil sheens. Furthermore, initial assessments have not revealed any obvious impacts to fish or wildlife resources. The Incident Response Team continues to monitor and assess.
Credit image: +NASA Wallops
Based on initial sweeps conducted by an Orbital safety team, it appears a significant amount of debris remains on the site and it is likely substantial hardware evidence will be available to aid in determining root cause of the Antares launch failure. Some of the Cygnus cargo has also been found and will be retrieved as soon as they have clearance to do so to see if any survived intact.
After up close visual inspections by the safety team, it still appears the launch site itself avoided major damage. There is some evidence of damage to piping that runs between the fuel and commodity storage vessels and the launch mount, but no evidence of significant damage to either the storage vessels or launch mount. Detailed evaluations by MARS and their engineering team will occur in the next couple of days. An Orbital-led team has begun cataloging and documenting the location of all pieces of debris over the next several days after which the debris will be relocated to storage bays on the island for further evaluation.
Telemetry data has been released to Orbital and their engineers presented a very quick look assessment to the Accident Investigation Board at the end of the day. It appears the Antares vehicle had a nominal pre-launch and launch sequence with no issues noted. All systems appeared to be performing nominally until approximately T+15 seconds at which point the failure occurred.
Evidence suggests the failure initiated in the first stage after which the vehicle lost its propulsive capability and fell back to the ground impacting near, but not on, the launch pad. Prior to impacting the ground, the rocket’s Flight Termination System was engaged by the designated official in the Wallops Range Control Center.
Remember that this blog is free, but you can support us with Flattr