back to article Sea Launch comsat rocket goes titsup 40 seconds into launch

The troubled rocketeers at Sea Launch have had another setback with the failure of its latest launch after just 40 seconds of flight, leading to the destruction of both the delivery vehicle and its expensive satellite payload. "We are very disappointed with the outcome of the launch and offer our sincere regrets to our customer …

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'Whoops!' – a word never welcomed by rocketeers

Best picture caption of the day!

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Problem with these modern rockets is the computer sees problems and hits the self destruct button. In the old days the computers weren't in charge of this.

The Iranians had a monkey flying theirs the other day, and that worked out fine. These chaps need a monkey pilot.

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"Problem with these modern rockets is the computer sees problems and hits the self destruct button. In the old days the computers weren't in charge of this."

no, so the highly explosive rocket fuel would plough its way happily through the sky towards populated areas.

Red tape would then prevail to either get someone to authorise the self destruct of a billion dollar project or the authority to scramble a jet to get someone else authorise the destruction of a billion dollar project.

I wouldnt want to be that bloke in good old russia (or china) or old.

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Anonymous Coward

Jet catches a rocket?

Good luck with that one.

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FAIL

Re: Jet catches a rocket?

The funny thing about intercept courses is that you dont need to catch them, they sort of fly to you.

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Big Brother

Commercial rocketry is a risky business - stuff like this is gonna happen. It does seem to happen at particularly bad times for Sea Launch though.

In other news: as it turns out, the monkey thing was a complete hoax - the monkey Iran showed before and after the flight were two different ones. There's even some question whether there was even a LAUNCH, or if there was, that it was actually a ballistic missile test of a completely different platform.

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There's even some question whether there was even a LAUNCH, or if there was, that it was actually a ballistic missile test of a completely different platform.

How is that possible? One would think US SPACE COMMAND would monitor the hell out of any rocket plume and object in (sub)orbital trajectory?

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Elon is only slightly better.

It turns out that SpaceX didn't pay enough attention to the fact that electronics used in space need to be the radiation hardened variety and built for space applications. Several items failed on their capsule including a freezer with experiment samples being returned to earth. Elon also needs to start getting customer payloads into space before he has spent all of their deposits keeping the company operating. I've heard tell that employee turn over is fairly high at SX.

Bummer about the Zenit rocket malfunction. It is rocket science after all. The SeaLaunch system is wicked cool. I'd love to work for them.

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Re: Elon is only slightly better.

SpaceX have multiple electronics to cope with the failure of one. In all cases of radiation hit, the other duplicates kept running and the affected item was re-booted/re-started successfully. The freezer failure was due to water entering from the splashdown not due to anything in space.

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Re: Elon is only slightly better.

Wouldn't you expect a spacecraft deisgned to cope with the vacuum of space also to be waterproof? Do NASA spacesuits leak?

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Alien

Re: Elon is only slightly better.

Wouldn't you expect a spacecraft deisgned to cope with the vacuum of space also to be waterproof?

I suppose it depends how hard you drop them into the sea ...?

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Re: Elon is only slightly better.

[Scene: Ships Cockpit. The room is bathed in red light and a klaxon beeps. Leela watches the depth gauge.]

Leela: Depth at 45 hundred feet, 48 hundred, 50 hundred! 5000 feet!

Farnsworth: Dear Lord, that's over 150 atmospheres of pressure.

Fry: How many atmospheres can this ship withstand?

Farnsworth: Well it's a spaceship, so I'd say anywhere between zero and one.

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Re: Elon is only slightly better.

"SpaceX have multiple electronics to cope with the failure of one. In all cases of radiation hit, the other duplicates kept running and the affected item was re-booted/re-started successfully."

The triple redundancy design is a standard pattern, but you sure as hell don't want it to be down to one single remaining operating unit (which AFAIK is where they ended up last time) as a matter of course. You design these things so as events like that are unusual but manageable. You don't reckon on 2/3 your system crapping out in one single flight.

If SX are going to achieve a human space flight worthiness rating they're going to have to spend a lot more money. That level of failure in, for example, an airliner's triple-redundant hydraulic system or flight control avionics requires many reports and investigations to be completed, and corrective action taken. It would be grossly irresponsible to take any less care over manned space flight.

And for SX their satellite launch customers won't likely stay loyal if the launch insurance premiums start sky rocketing (coat-hand-door-gone) because they've built too cheaply and have a lot of failures.

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Re: Elon is only slightly better.

Still, their redundancy seems to be lower than the shuttle levels. And as far as Soyuz levels - not even close.

If memory serves me right shuttle used to use odd (3 or 5)-way "voting" approach on key components where the control systems "voted" to decide what to do (thrusters and engine control) and systems being a minority being rebooted on the spot. Soyuz still uses analogue circuits on some of the essential systems involved in de-orbiting, stability control, etc which are completely impervious to radiation at anything short of nuke EMP levels.

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Re: Elon is only slightly better.

> Soyuz still uses analogue circuits

That's not redundancy (though they might use that too). That's hardening. Slow zone level hardening.

Hmm... why not use a cat's brain in a vat?

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Re: why not use a cat's brain in a vat?

Not as daft (or creepy) as it sounds, a few years back somebody had a teaspoon of rat neurons learning how to operate a basic flight simulator.

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Joke

Re: Elon is only slightly better.

"Hmm... why not use a cat's brain in a vat?"

"Right, really complicated bit for orbital insertion now. Concentrate.......concentrate.........OH LOOK! A PIECE OF STRING!!!!!!!!!!"

<Kaboom>

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Re: why not use a cat's brain in a vat?

I think you'll find that's exactly as creepy as it sounds.

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Mushroom

"Whoops", just slightly better than "Oopsie daisy"... not quite the same ring, though.

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Anonymous Coward

" the booster went into emergency mode and cut out to avoid an explosion"

Given that they lost everything, that emergency mode seems a bit pointless. And it stopped a good firework display, which would have been some small recompense.

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Anonymous Coward

Might have been pointless if you were at Baikonur in a bunker, not on a ship that might sink if hit by large shrapnel ;)

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"You Are Having a Bad Problem And Will Not Go To Space Today"

http://xkcd.com/1133/ right at the bottom

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Devil

Shrapnel?

Me thinks tis the many, many (metric) tons of fuels and oxidisers, suddenly, and mostly mixing in the one go, in the one place is the real problem.

Combusticus Maximus - or Big Big.

Shrapnel? Not so much - as a rocket is basically a big stack of rain water tanks, filled with different things, and better plumbing......

It's a nice thought that they designed the rocket to spend it's remaining moments, going away from them, instead of simply dropping back down on them.

But they would just have to design the launch platform to be REASONABLY capable of a rocket dropping back on it, and lighting up their lives....

Maybe the launch platform is unmanned during launch.... and they all head off in a row boat.

"Dammit! Who forgot to light the fuze?" and then row the 5 miles back.

Pity about the shit vid, with nothing more than a flame, and absence of flame and much darkness afterwards.

Crap movie - I want a refund.

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Anonymous Coward

Toxic artificial reef

Seems an expensive and troublesome way to sink a new artificial reef.

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Why not launch from altitude ?

If it is worth while launching from the equator to get an extra shove from the earth's rotation, why not also launch from up a mountain ? Kenya is on the equator and has mountains 5Km high. OK: there is a cost getting rockets to a mountain, but there is also a cost building a big boat to launch them from sea level.

Cape canaveral is 28 degrees North of the equator.

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Stop

Re: Why not launch from altitude ?

You're joking, right?

So, we launch from a mountain in the middle of a continent, and if something goes wrong we just rain debris down on the populace below?

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Re: Why not launch from altitude ?

The big boat was built on the Clyde in 1996 iirc. I used to watch their progress from a 20th floor window on the other side of the river. It's reusable.

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Re: Why not launch from altitude ?

Just remember that you're standing on a planet that's evolving

And revolving at nine hundred miles an hour

Launching from the equator you get the full 900mph behind you, launch from further north and you don't get as much,

Only matters for equatorial orbitting sats, like this GSO communications one - but a free 900mph is worth it.

If you are going 22,000miles up to GSO - starting 2miles up a mountain doesn't gain much

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Re: Why not launch from altitude ?

The two miles aren't important in terms of final distance, but they are the most expensive both gravitationally and ,most importantly, aerodynamically.

It's not a daft idea, until you work out where mistakes land. The Russians just happen to have a whole pile of empty ground (and/or a disregard for anyone who lives there) over which they can fire stuff.

The Americans dismembered a spacecraft over a few thousand miles of the southern states 10 years ago...

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Re: Why not launch from altitude ?

> So, we launch from a mountain in the middle of a continent, and if something goes wrong we just rain debris down on the populace below?

Happens all the time in Khazakstan.

That's why people nearby have serious liver trouble. Hydrazine in the environment.

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Re: Why not launch from altitude ?

There's only a sparse population east of Mt Kenya, and even fewer people east of nearby Mt Kilimanjaro.

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Meh

Re: Why not launch from altitude ?

Why not launch from an Electro-Gravitic platform at about 300 miles up? They started developing Electro-Gravitics in 1952 and the project went "black" in the late 50s. By now I'm sure they have an anti-gravity platform about the size of three football fields. Just look at the TR-3B Astra.

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FAIL

A flash of fail

At 1min 1 sec....

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Unhappy

Launch platform throws a wobler, rocket follows.

""The rockets detected an abnormal situation linked to platform instability from the very start, and then switched the engines over (to operations) aimed at steering the rocket away from the platform," the source said."

This is bad luck for Sea Launch. I'd really hoped they were getting on their feet again after coming out of Chapter 11.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Launch platform throws a wobler, rocket follows.

Well, it's not so bad, last failure was 11 launches ago in 2007.

4 failures out of 35 launches in their entire history since 1999.

OK for a ship....

I realise Ariane has done about 90 launches since 2000 with 2 failures, but they are on land.... and are more expensive. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_orbital_launch_systems

Here's the previous successful Sea Launch flight in Dec 3 2012, Eutelsat 70B, news from SL HQ in Bern.

http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/sea-launch-successfully-delivers-the-eutelsat-70b-spacecraft-into-orbit-181920681.html

And apparently the Chinese are gettting busy too, as you might expect.

http://spaceflightnow.com/news/n1112/04china/

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Sneaky of you, El Reg!

Trying to pin this on Elon, when we know your SPB has the frikkin' laser!

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Coat

If only...

...they'd put a highly trained, highly qualified, ElRegistered Playmonaut at the controls....

Coat. It can get cold in space.

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Anonymous Coward

Did someone

Forget to put a minus sign in the equation controlling the motor pitch angle again?

AC/DC

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Joke

Looks like....

It ran out of fuel :D - should have made sure it was full before it left.

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Anonymous Coward

Didn't anyone see the ufo on the left?

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Alien

No

No-one saw it.

There was no UFO.

Remain at your computer until the re-education team arrive.

Resistance is futile.

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Mushroom

Lay person questions...

How stable a platform is the constantly shifting surface of a large ocean? And how much of an unexpected random swell would it take to wibble the super-sophisticated gyroscopes?

Are they trying to replicate a submarine icbm launch system from a surface vessel?

Expiring minds etc

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Genuine question here.

The article says "The Intelsat 27 communications satellite was intended for geosynchronous orbit over the Americas and Europe." As I understand it, "geosynchronous" means the satellite remains over a given point on the planet, motionless with respect to that point (i.e. turning at exactly the same speed as the planet). How, therefore, could this have been geosynchronous over both the Americas and Europe? Was it going to be placed somewhere over the Atlantic to serve both?

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Re: Genuine question here.

Wouldn't that be Geostationary?

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Re: Genuine question here.

I've replied to this below - thanks, PsychoHippy.

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Thanks, PsychoHippy ...

... I hadn't thought of that, so I went to look it up, using the two terms for the search, and I found the answer to my question. Most useful is Basics of the Geostationary Orbit" By Dr. T.S. Kelso, which shows that a geostationary orbit (which you correctly identify as what I described) is a special kind of geosynchronous orbit. A geosynchronous orbit can have movement relative to a point on the planet (for instance, describing a figure-of-eight). It now makes sense how a satellite could have a geosynchronous orbit over Europe and the Americas. Thank you!! It is always good to learn something new! :-)

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