Orbital Sciences has suffered a major accident in the launch of the Orb-3 mission to the International Space Station.
Six seconds into a launch which was delayed one day due to a boat straying into the safety zone, the Antares booster carrying a Cygnus resupply vessel appeared to lose thrust and come crashing back into the launch pad in what is likely to remembered as one of the most spectacular launch failures in modern U.S. history.
While it will take some time for crews to enter the area, there is no doubt that in addition to the loss of the rocket, the Cygnus spacecraft and its payload, Pad OA at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility has been severely damaged.
As a failure investigation team is being put together and begins the arduous work of determining precisely what happened, one fact appears to loom large, at least until solid information is available. What concerned many about the Antares; dependence on reworked 40 year old Russian rocket engines and an outsourced first stage has come home to haunt Orbital Sciences, NASA and commercial spaceflight in general.
Much more to come