Author Topic: Antares ORB-3 Failure Discussion Thread  (Read 295953 times)

Offline Chris Bergin

Antares ORB-3 Failure Discussion Thread
« on: 10/29/2014 12:53 PM »
This is a discussion thread for the sad failure of the ORB-3 mission.

Launch/Failuire Update Thread:
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?topic=35939.0

Resources:

Orbital GENERAL Forum Section:
http://forum.nasaspaceflight.com/index.php?board=46.0

Orbital (Antares/Cygnus) News Articles:
http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/tag/orbital/

Main ORB-3/CRS-3 Feature Article - by William Graham:
http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2014/10/orbitals-antares-loft-fourth-cygnus-iss/

And Failure Article:
http://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2014/10/antares-fails-shortly-after-launch/

We will have a new article in work later when time/info allows.

Offline kevin-rf

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Re: Antares ORB-3 Failure Discussion Thread
« Reply #1 on: 10/29/2014 12:56 PM »
Best wishes to all at Orbital
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Offline Ben the Space Brit

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Re: Antares ORB-3 Failure Discussion Thread
« Reply #2 on: 10/29/2014 01:00 PM »
So, to confirm what we know (which isn't much):

* Visually, about 6 seconds into the flight, an anomaly starts on probably just one of the two AJ-26s. The plume colour changes and so does its dynamics. Shortly after that, there is a huge light flare that is suggestive of a Rapid Unplanned Disassembly (RUD) of the engine; an explosion in other words. It is likely that the explosion also disabled or at least severely impaired the functioning of the remaining engine;

* At about 10-12 seconds into the flight MCC-H identified that there was an anomaly; at this point, ORB-CRS-3 was in free-fall back towards the pad;

* An FTS signal was sent to the vehicle at approximately T+0:00:20 but it is unclear if this reached the vehicle and was actioned before it impacted with the ground/pad, causing the core to explode and destroying the payload and, evidently, the Castor-30XL upper stage. Again, visually, blue-white incandescent debris was seen falling through the shot, indicating that the Castor's propellent canister was breached and the propellent ignited;

* Reporting without source, ABC has claimed that the failure was not due to a fault in the AJ-26 main engines. HOWEVER, there have been prior failures of AJ-26 in testing (including a classified catastrophic failure) and on-pad failures that have required launch slips.

I'm sure more expert posters will have more information and identify anything I might have missed (enthusiastic and mostly-ignorant amateur here).
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Offline brettreds2k

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Re: Antares ORB-3 Failure Discussion Thread
« Reply #3 on: 10/29/2014 01:01 PM »
Just another reason why shutting down the Shuttle Program was a mistake :(
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Offline Robotbeat

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Re: Antares ORB-3 Failure Discussion Thread
« Reply #4 on: 10/29/2014 01:06 PM »
Just another reason why shutting down the Shuttle Program was a mistake :(
If we had Shuttle and another failure like this had occurred, we wouldn't have just lost cargo, we would've lost the whole crew. Shuttle had no LAS, which would certainly have saved the crew in this situation.

Instead of Shuttle, we got 3-4 redundant vehicles instead: 2 providers of cargo, 2 providers of crew (shortly), both of which have LAS systems and more robust capsules. SpaceX is launching cargo in December. If it had been a Shuttle failure, we probably would've had another 2-year stand-down in domestic cargo capability in addition to the loss of life.

Shuttle was awesome, but I wouldn't want to go back at this point.
« Last Edit: 10/29/2014 01:08 PM by Robotbeat »
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Offline Ben the Space Brit

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Re: Antares ORB-3 Failure Discussion Thread
« Reply #5 on: 10/29/2014 01:08 PM »
Kuznetsov reports that their engines were working properly......  ::) http://itar-tass.com/kosmos/1539681

They probably were - Right up until the moment one of them tore itself to pieces and shredded the other one in the process. The aggravating part of these sort of situations is that there is usually little or no telemetry forewarning of something like this until the investigators literally go through the data byte-by-byte.

That said, Russian manufacturers usually insist their equipment was sound right up until the moment it is proven that it wasn't. Then they fire the person deemed responsible and continue with business as usual. The Proton crash due to a manufacturing fault comes to mind.
« Last Edit: 10/29/2014 01:09 PM by Ben the Space Brit »
"Oops! I left the silly thing in reverse!" - Duck Dodgers

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Offline Chris Bergin

Re: Antares ORB-3 Failure Discussion Thread
« Reply #6 on: 10/29/2014 01:08 PM »
ABC sounds like they saw the TASS article with Kuznetsov saying the engines were working, but the translation could be non specific to the failure point, such as working to ramp up to get her off the pad. We all heard the call of good throttling before the failure.

We just don't know yet.

Offline mikes

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Re: Antares ORB-3 Failure Discussion Thread
« Reply #7 on: 10/29/2014 01:12 PM »
Orbital stated in April that it would take three years to develop a new first stage (they were considering ATK solid versus two other Russian bids).

http://aviationweek.com/blog/orbital-eying-atk-solid-propulsion-system-antares-first-stage-1

If the AJ-26 were to be considered unusable, how much (if at all) could they accelerate the development of an alternative?

Offline pagheca

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Re: Antares ORB-3 Failure Discussion Thread
« Reply #8 on: 10/29/2014 01:17 PM »
* An FTS signal was sent to the vehicle at approximately T+0:00:20 but it is unclear if this reached the vehicle and was actioned before it impacted with the ground/pad,

I am curious to know if - when confirmed - those 20 sec are "normal" or if given the signs as failures emerged apparently much earlier, something happened or some procedures were not correctly applied.

Can someone familiar with FTS procedures let me know please?
« Last Edit: 10/29/2014 01:20 PM by pagheca »

Offline yg1968

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Re: Antares ORB-3 Failure Discussion Thread
« Reply #9 on: 10/29/2014 01:19 PM »
Orbital stated in April that it would take three years to develop a new first stage (they were considering ATK solid versus two other Russian bids).

http://aviationweek.com/blog/orbital-eying-atk-solid-propulsion-system-antares-first-stage-1

If the AJ-26 were to be considered unusable, how much (if at all) could they accelerate the development of an alternative?

They are considering alternative engines (probably the RD-180) for the CRS2 contract which starts in 2017. They are replacing the AJ-26 because they are running out of engines.  I don't expect that the accident will have any impact on their plans.

Offline IanH84

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Re: Antares ORB-3 Failure Discussion Thread
« Reply #10 on: 10/29/2014 01:19 PM »
Thanks for the discussion thread, I had this typed up in response to a post in the updates thread but it's much more on-topic here.
I've watched several of the vids a few times at this point as well as watching the NASA TV feed live as it happened, and everything looked fine during the first 3-4 seconds. After that, just before the plume changes it appears as though there is flames on the left hand side of the base of the first stage, about 10% of the way up the vehicle. Then there is the change in plume followed by a fairly energetic explosion at the base of the rocket with debri flying in all directions, then the base is visibly engulfed in flames as it falls back to the pad. Whatever happened we'll hopefully find out more this time then we did about the Stennis test stand incident. If there was a fire at the base of the rocket, could that be from a ruptured fuel line or a possible tank issue? I'd lean toward the fuel lines myself as they have had issues with them before on the test stand.
I went through the video frame by frame several times and came to basically the same conclusion. I've attached screenshots of the two frames before the visible anomaly and two frames where something has clearly gone wrong.

My observations and speculation: It appears that the engine loses thrust and the plume becomes extremely rich, suggesting oxidizer starvation. The explosion occurs several frames later, then the rocket falls back with the first stage largely intact with the business end still burning. The explosion suggests that either the turbopump of the combustion chamber disintegrated, and combined with the apparent oxidizer starvation it suggests that the oxidizer side of the turbopump assembly suffered a reduction in flow rate followed by mechanical failure Based on the delay between apparent loss of oxidizer and explosion, my guess is a foreign object or contamination in the oxidizer.

Offline Ben the Space Brit

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Re: Antares ORB-3 Failure Discussion Thread
« Reply #11 on: 10/29/2014 01:20 PM »
If the AJ-26 were to be considered unusable, how much (if at all) could they accelerate the development of an alternative?

Knowing the Space Biz, probably not at all. If anything, 3 years is probably an optimistic best-case scenario. If OSC's experience is anything like SpaceX's during the transition from v.1.0 to v.1.1 of Falcon-9, that schedule could stretch by anything from 50-100%.
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Offline wolfpack

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Re: Antares ORB-3 Failure Discussion Thread
« Reply #12 on: 10/29/2014 01:21 PM »
I offer my condolences to the hard-working employees of Orbital Sciences Corporation, NASA, and the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport for the heartbreaking loss of the 5th Antares flight. May your fact-finding be fruitful and return to flight be brief.

Offline PahTo

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Re: Antares ORB-3 Failure Discussion Thread
« Reply #13 on: 10/29/2014 01:23 PM »

While the root cause may be a propellant supply issue (feed line rupture leading to engine failure), given what we all know/the history of the engine, including Stennis, and what was observed by so many here, methinks starting the investigation at the back end of the rocket and moving forwards makes sense.
Again, my regards to the teams involved.  Spaceflight is indeed difficult:  human laws are easily (and regularly) broken.  Physics is a bit more demanding...

Offline Jim

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Re: Antares ORB-3 Failure Discussion Thread
« Reply #14 on: 10/29/2014 01:24 PM »


So no, I would not trust Frank Culbertson, or any Orbital employee, to lead the investigation.  They have too much of an internal conflict of interest, despite their best intentions.  I think the board must be led by, and primarily composed of, outsiders.  To do otherwise is to expect too much of human beings.

Nonsense and wrong.  There is more at risk of not finding or hiding the cause than fixing it.   It is OSC's  hardware and they need to fix it, just like any other supplier.  Apple sends out bad code and independent people are not called in to investigate.

No people were hurt and most of the damage was to OSC assets.  This was a service contract.  No USA F or NASA board is required.  Welcome to the commercial world.  NASA can do another review after OSC, but it is OSC to lead the initial investigation

Online meekGee

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Re: Antares ORB-3 Failure Discussion Thread
« Reply #15 on: 10/29/2014 01:25 PM »
Perhaps in this rocket, all FTS does is kill the thrust (in the other engine) and unzip the tanks

You're pretty much describing the norm, at least for U.S. operated vehicles.

Quote
, expecting aero loads to do the rest - which in fast flight will take a fraction of a second - but in this case took several seconds before there was significant mixing of fuel and oxygen.  The unzipped tanks didn't crumple or buckle, because they were in free fall, with no load, and barely moving.

Tanks are pressurized for flight. You don't get to unzip the tanks and not see it immediately as propellant being (violently) vented/dispersed.

I don't see any evidence of FTS action until after the falling vehicle was lost into the smoke on the way down.

Yup, this makes sense.

Also. they said it was only activated at T+20.  At that point the vehicle is about two seconds from hitting the ground, and it is hard to tell.

I was going through every possible explanation for the lack of FTS visual evidence, other than "FTS failed".

At T+20 it made little difference.
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Offline gospacex

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Re: Antares ORB-3 Failure Discussion Thread
« Reply #16 on: 10/29/2014 01:26 PM »
I don't think pad is too severely damaged.

I think the rocket impacted the ground about where easternmost lightning tower stood, and debris fell in a line roughly parallel to the shore. There are no structures there to be damaged.

Even erector tower seems to be intact.
« Last Edit: 10/29/2014 01:27 PM by gospacex »

Offline Ben the Space Brit

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Re: Antares ORB-3 Failure Discussion Thread
« Reply #17 on: 10/29/2014 01:29 PM »
I was going through every possible explanation for the lack of FTS visual evidence, other than "FTS failed".

How are FTS signals sent? If it's a narrow-beam microwave signal or something like that, could the vehicle's sudden descent moved it out of the transmission beam for a critical few moments until the antenna re-established a lock?
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Offline jongoff

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Re: Antares ORB-3 Failure Discussion Thread
« Reply #18 on: 10/29/2014 01:32 PM »
Orbital stated in April that it would take three years to develop a new first stage (they were considering ATK solid versus two other Russian bids).

http://aviationweek.com/blog/orbital-eying-atk-solid-propulsion-system-antares-first-stage-1

If the AJ-26 were to be considered unusable, how much (if at all) could they accelerate the development of an alternative?

I wouldn't be surprised if that was the question de jour at Orbital HQ this morning...

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Offline gfagley

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Re: Antares ORB-3 Failure Discussion Thread
« Reply #19 on: 10/29/2014 01:34 PM »
Just another reason why shutting down the Shuttle Program was a mistake :(
If we had Shuttle and another failure like this had occurred, we wouldn't have just lost cargo, we would've lost the whole crew.
I also wished that they didn't stop the shuttle program but figuring that the shuttle had a failure every 50 launches, we would be getting really close to 150 launches by now..  NASA was pushing their luck with the shuttle so pulling the plug was the best thing.  also figure that the shuttle carries more cargo so a failure has an even bigger impact.

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