Author Topic: Failure: ABL RS1 (first launch) : DEMO-1 : Kodiak LP-3C : 10 Jan 2023 23:27 UTC  (Read 83153 times)

Offline Foximus

They've not released any video of the actual launch and failure, apart from the feed showing it disappear out of shot?

Not yet. I wouldn't expect it either. ABL doesn't share a lot.

For the record, I don't think that's because they don't have a lot to share, or because they don't want to share, but just because they haven't put much effort in to PR. ABL has always come across as an engineer's technology company to me, if you know what I mean. Or at any rate, their emphasis on simplicity, the total focus on hardware in the little promotional content they have made, and the apparent lack of an outgoing CEO/Owner/PR-face, gives me that vibe. Like they're a company full of Wozniaks, without a Jobs in sight.


Also, expect very little until the FAA Mishap report closes.

Offline ringsider

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Like they're a company full of Wozniaks, without a Jobs in sight.


Maybe not Jobs, but do they have Harry's dad Ronald O'Hanley - Chairman & CEO of State Street - on the board.

Online FutureSpaceTourist

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[Edit to add: TL;DR - suspect fire in engine bay took out the avionics causing complete engine shutdowns. Cause of fire not yet known. A number of positives from the flight too.]

https://twitter.com/ablspacesystems/status/1615751018746376192

Quote
Flight 1 L+7 update

Quote
FLIGHT 1 - L+7 UPDATE

PRE- LAUNCH OPERATIONS

Operations began around 5am local time while tracking a 30% weather POV due to a low deck of clouds creating triggered lightning risk. We delayed our TO slightly to wait for a gap in the weather. During propellant fill, a bulk carrier vessel transiting from Vancouver to Singapore approached the east boundary of our maritime exclusion area, threatening to violate the range. We pulled in our TO, accelerated propellant fill, and successfully cleared our launch commit criteria just before the range went red. We entered a flawless terminal count and ignited the engines.

LIFTOFF + FLIGHT

All nine E2 Sea Level engines ignited and successfully bootstrapped to full thrust. After verifying liftoff criteria, RS1 commanded release of the hold down mechanisms on the GO launch stool. Liftoff occurred at 23:27:30 UTC. The quick-disconnect plate separated and the vehicle accelerated off the pad nominally. Tank pressure control and propellant utilization control were both effectively demonstrated in flight conditions. Thrust vector control was nominal, with near zero pitch or yaw control error, and a 2 degree roll immediately zeroed by the controller. RSI flew in this nominal condition for 10.87 seconds, reaching a max acceleration of 1.23 g's and altitude of 761 feet.

ANOMALY + IMPACT

At T+10.87 seconds, Stage 1 suffered a complete loss of power. All valves on the stage de-energized. This caused a clean, simultaneous shutdown of all nine engines. Stage 2 continued to operate nominally, transmitting vehicle telemetry to the ground. R$1 ascended for another 2.63 seconds, briefly paused at apogee, and began accelerating downward toward the pad. The vehicle did not tumble, falling vertically for 8.81 seconds before impacting the ground roughly 60 feet east of the launch point. Approximately 95% of the vehicle total propellant mass was still on-board, creating an energetic explosion and overpressure wave that caused damage to nearby equipment and facilities. ABL equipment damaged in the explosion included fuel and water storage tanks, pad communications equipment, and our GSO launch mount and fluid container. Additionally, fire spread to our nearby fabric hangar, destroying it and much of the integration equipment stored therein. Debris scattered over a ¼ mile radius and was contained within the designated hazard area. In accordance with safety protocol, personnel were clear from the area and not at risk.

RESPONSE + INVESTIGATION

After confirming the pad was in a safe state, ABL and Range personnel approached the pad and initiated our mishap investigation with oversight from the FAA. All vehicle debris is being cataloged and retained. We have formed an anomaly investigation team tasked with identifying root cause of the Stage 1 power loss. As of L+7, we have identified multiple fact patterns of interest. Notably, we saw off-nominal pressure spikes and rises in temperature in the Stage 1 aft cavity a few seconds after liftoff. Additionally, there is some visual evidence of fire or smoke near the vehicle QD and the engine bay after liftoff. Shortly before the power loss, a handful of sensors began dropping out sequentially. This evidence suggests that an unwanted fire spread to our avionics system, causing a system-wide failure. Should the source of the fire be indeterminate, the investigation will identify all undesirable conditions that may have caused, contributed to, or failed to mitigate the fire, as well as opportunities for increased resiliency. Each undesirable condition will be assessed for mitigation on Flight 2, Flight 3 and beyond

FLIGHT 2

All engines for RS1 SNO2 completed acceptance testing in 2022, and both stages are now fully assembled and ready for stage-level testing. GSO SNO2 is largely complete and commissioned. While the investigation continues, the pad will be repaired, after which GSO and RSI can deploy ahead of our next launch attempt. Pending the results of our anomaly investigation, we'll be prepared to share more on the expected timeline for these efforts.

Suffice to say we are ready and motivated to step into Flight 2 with the same focus, efficiency, and speed that has defined the RS1 program to date.
« Last Edit: 01/18/2023 03:50 pm by FutureSpaceTourist »

Offline mn

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Quote
...

Should the source of the fire be indeterminate, the investigation will identify all undesirable conditions that may have caused, contributed to, or failed to mitigate the fire, as well as opportunities for increased resiliency.
...

So if they do determine the cause they will only fix that and not investigate all other conditions that could be improved?

I'm sure they didn't mean it that way, just not written perfectly.

Offline Daniels30

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Dan Piemont, Co-Founder & President: https://www.linkedin.com/posts/dan-piemont_flight-1-provides-a-great-opportunity-to-activity-7021568178820419584-vW0d?utm_source=share&utm_medium=member_desktop

"Flight 1 provides a great opportunity to take stock of where ABL has come from and where we are going. While a couple of things went wrong on launch day, thousands of things went right. All of the systems that were demonstrated in flight were created from nothing in five years with a brand new team, brand new launch vehicle, all built from scratch by a small group of very dedicated people.
 
Along the way we took no shortcuts:
- Five years and five months from founding
- 350-person team
- In-house turbopumps from a clean sheet design
- In-house engines w/ custom parts printed + machined at ABL
- In-house structures milled, formed, and welded at ABL
- In-house GNC and FSW stack straight on a custom Linux build
- In-house modern ERP software from Day 1
- In-house real time control software for all ground and flight ops
- Custom deployable launch site systems
- Test sites built from scratch in Mojave (and Edwards, and NM...)
- Launch site built from scratch in Kodiak
- Zero derivative, pre-existing, acquired, or licensed IP
 
This has been the hardest path, but the one we know is needed to serve our customers reliably over the years to come. And we are speed running it.
 
We are grateful for the support of the community. In the past week I’ve received no less than 100 space is hards, 20 man in the arenas, 12 kennedy ‘62s, and 6 katy perry strongers. There’s a lot of truth in those sentiments, and the Flight 1 campaign gave us many valuable experiences that will help us embed excellence deep into the company. But this is not a moment of contrition or retreat for us – we will hold up our track record for comparison against any other novel launch vehicle development. Give us a few more flights before you take too sympathetic of a view. The RS1 program is stronger than ever."
« Last Edit: 01/18/2023 08:01 pm by Daniels30 »
“There are a thousand things that can happen when you go to light a rocket engine, and only one of them is good.” -
Tom Mueller, SpaceX Co founder and Propulsion CTO.

Online FutureSpaceTourist

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Higher res versions of the launch photos and an extra one

Online eeergo


At T+10.87 seconds, Stage 1 suffered a complete loss of power. All valves on the stage de-energized. This caused a clean, simultaneous shutdown of all nine engines. Stage 2 continued to operate nominally, transmitting vehicle telemetry to the ground. R$1 ascended for another 2.63 seconds, briefly paused at apogee, and began accelerating downward toward the pad. The vehicle did not tumble, falling vertically for 8.81 seconds before impacting the ground roughly 60 feet east of the launch point. Approximately 95% of the vehicle total propellant mass was still on-board, creating an energetic explosion and overpressure wave that caused damage to nearby equipment and facilities. [...] Notably, we saw off-nominal pressure spikes and rises in temperature in the Stage 1 aft cavity a few seconds after liftoff. Additionally, there is some visual evidence of fire or smoke near the vehicle QD and the engine bay after liftoff.

Well, that settles the prior FTS discussion, suggesting a major leak or engine ignition transient causing damage.
-DaviD-

Offline 2megs

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Well, that settles the prior FTS discussion, suggesting a major leak or engine ignition transient causing damage.

Though it raises the question of why the FTS wasn't fired. It makes sense to have some inhibition in the early seconds — as long as the rocket is moving away from the pad, even if it's going off course you'd like it to get slightly farther from the pad before it goes boom. But once it's falling back towards you, better to disperse the propellants and diffuse the energy while it's still farther away, no?

Hopefully this was just an unhandled case in the (Human? Automated?) decision tree, rather than a failure that included the FTS itself.

Offline lightleviathan

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If the FTS was only wired onto the first stage, then it would be unable to be fired as the first stage lost power. But it's likely that RS1 only has a thrust-termination FTS, so it would be redundant.
hydrolox engines are the best

Online eeergo

If the FTS was only wired onto the first stage, then it would be unable to be fired as the first stage lost power. But it's likely that RS1 only has a thrust-termination FTS, so it would be redundant.

FTS should have an independent source of power (think SLS battery saga), and preferably away from high-risk places such as the engine bay. Agreed the most likely cause is the thrust-termination-only FTS.
-DaviD-

Online edzieba

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Well, that settles the prior FTS discussion, suggesting a major leak or engine ignition transient causing damage.

Though it raises the question of why the FTS wasn't fired. It makes sense to have some inhibition in the early seconds — as long as the rocket is moving away from the pad, even if it's going off course you'd like it to get slightly farther from the pad before it goes boom. But once it's falling back towards you, better to disperse the propellants and diffuse the energy while it's still farther away, no?

Hopefully this was just an unhandled case in the (Human? Automated?) decision tree, rather than a failure that included the FTS itself.
That assumes an active explosive FTS is present. If they are using thrust-termination FTS, then it would be impossible to fire it when the stage has already terminated thrust.

Offline butters

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Sounds similar to Astra's sideways launch. Everything solid on the pad, but propellant gets loose after the T-0 umbilicals disconnect. Astra's avionics soldiered on more valiantly, but either way it's a bad day. Ground systems are tricky.

Offline Sam Ho

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Well, that settles the prior FTS discussion, suggesting a major leak or engine ignition transient causing damage.

Though it raises the question of why the FTS wasn't fired. It makes sense to have some inhibition in the early seconds — as long as the rocket is moving away from the pad, even if it's going off course you'd like it to get slightly farther from the pad before it goes boom. But once it's falling back towards you, better to disperse the propellants and diffuse the energy while it's still farther away, no?

Hopefully this was just an unhandled case in the (Human? Automated?) decision tree, rather than a failure that included the FTS itself.
That assumes an active explosive FTS is present. If they are using thrust-termination FTS, then it would be impossible to fire it when the stage has already terminated thrust.
Sounds similar to Astra's sideways launch. Everything solid on the pad, but propellant gets loose after the T-0 umbilicals disconnect. Astra's avionics soldiered on more valiantly, but either way it's a bad day. Ground systems are tricky.
The point of the FTS is to prevent the vehicle from leaving the range safety corridor.  If the vehicle shuts down at 761 feet, it's not leaving the corridor regardless, so there is no requirement to fire the FTS. 

The ABL statement points out that the vehicle did not tumble on its brief flight.  The Astra and Firefly flights also delayed firing the FTS for some time on what were clearly doomed flights, as the vehicles were still under control, and the IIP was within the corridor.  (It also had the benefit of burning off propellant mass.)

Also, of course, if a thrust-termination FTS fires after thrust already terminated from a failure, it would not have any effect.

As to whether it causes less damage to blow an explosive FTS if the vehicle is at low altitude and heading towards the pad, that's debatable.  A low airburst will have greater overpressure over a larger area than a ground burst.  Also, it might have better propellant mixing and thus greater energy release.

Offline brussell

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Well, that settles the prior FTS discussion, suggesting a major leak or engine ignition transient causing damage.

Though it raises the question of why the FTS wasn't fired. It makes sense to have some inhibition in the early seconds — as long as the rocket is moving away from the pad, even if it's going off course you'd like it to get slightly farther from the pad before it goes boom. But once it's falling back towards you, better to disperse the propellants and diffuse the energy while it's still farther away, no?

Hopefully this was just an unhandled case in the (Human? Automated?) decision tree, rather than a failure that included the FTS itself.

The FTS doesn't trigger as long as the rocket is in within pre-determined limit curves (sides, altitude and distance behind pad) AND the rocket is not tumbling (for the first stage at least). The FTS is most certainly *not* inhibited during lift off. However, since the FTS is manual the operator has some discretion about not triggering immediately (as far as I know there have been no AFTS certified on the first flight for any company, in the US)

Offline brussell

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Well, that settles the prior FTS discussion, suggesting a major leak or engine ignition transient causing damage.

Though it raises the question of why the FTS wasn't fired. It makes sense to have some inhibition in the early seconds — as long as the rocket is moving away from the pad, even if it's going off course you'd like it to get slightly farther from the pad before it goes boom. But once it's falling back towards you, better to disperse the propellants and diffuse the energy while it's still farther away, no?

Hopefully this was just an unhandled case in the (Human? Automated?) decision tree, rather than a failure that included the FTS itself.
That assumes an active explosive FTS is present. If they are using thrust-termination FTS, then it would be impossible to fire it when the stage has already terminated thrust.
Sounds similar to Astra's sideways launch. Everything solid on the pad, but propellant gets loose after the T-0 umbilicals disconnect. Astra's avionics soldiered on more valiantly, but either way it's a bad day. Ground systems are tricky.
The point of the FTS is to prevent the vehicle from leaving the range safety corridor.  If the vehicle shuts down at 761 feet, it's not leaving the corridor regardless, so there is no requirement to fire the FTS. 

The ABL statement points out that the vehicle did not tumble on its brief flight.  The Astra and Firefly flights also delayed firing the FTS for some time on what were clearly doomed flights, as the vehicles were still under control, and the IIP was within the corridor.  (It also had the benefit of burning off propellant mass.)

Also, of course, if a thrust-termination FTS fires after thrust already terminated from a failure, it would not have any effect.

As to whether it causes less damage to blow an explosive FTS if the vehicle is at low altitude and heading towards the pad, that's debatable.  A low airburst will have greater overpressure over a larger area than a ground burst.  Also, it might have better propellant mixing and thus greater energy release.

I agree with all of your post and it's better than I could have said it, but as a good internet nerd I am going to quibble with something and that is the last paragraph. It is debatable but I argue that it's likely better to blow it up in the air as 1-it'll have worst mixing, 2-smaller parts hitting the ground (though admittedly more spread), 3-less terminal velocity and thus energy.

Online eeergo

As expected from the inconclusive but suggestive first lower-resolution images, higher-resolution shots show the extent of the damage pretty well, including the "fabric hangar"/pop-up tent that was completely obliterated, and the scorch marks on the ground that seem to indicate an impact right next to the liftoff point.

https://twitter.com/Harry__Stranger/status/1617872727498686467

Offline Steven Pietrobon

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Degifed images.
Akin's Laws of Spacecraft Design #1:  Engineering is done with numbers.  Analysis without numbers is only an opinion.

Tags: rs1 kodiak abl 
 

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