back to article Antares aborted after launchpad mishap

NASA has had to delay the launch of the Antares private spacecraft following the premature disconnection of a second-stage umbilical. Thankfully, it wasn't a catastrophic launch failure. Antares has missed its launch window, and will need 24 to 48 hours to be returned to “nominal state”, and at the time of writing, NASA was …

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Joke

I hate it when it falls out 12 minutes early....

... but at least it doesn't take 2 days to get ready again!

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Anonymous Coward

Re: I hate it when it falls out 12 minutes early....

12 minutes..... That's not what your girlfriend told me......

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Re: I hate it when it falls out 12 minutes early....

Exactly, headline writer asleep on this one, I expected better from the El Reg double entendre team.

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Happy

Re: I hate it when it falls out 12 minutes early....

Hmmm. How about:

Electric Connection in Premature Ejection from Giant Erection Causes Ejaculation of Dejection by PR from NASA's 2nd COTS Selection.

I don't think I'm cut out to be a subbie...

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Re: El Reg double entendre team

If that doesn't already exist, then it should!

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Unhappy

"they don't build 'em like they used to"

One reason they're doing 8 ISS missions that they only have enough engines for 2 test flights and 8 production flights:

http://spaceflightnow.com/antares/demo/130416aj26/

"If you want to get an engine like this, you can't find it in the United States," Eberly said. "I think it speaks to the state of the liquid propulsion industry in the United States."

Zing.

"Russia is working on a light version of the Soyuz rocket which will use one NK-33 engine on the first stage."

First I heard of that!

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Re: "they don't build 'em like they used to"

Aerojet (not new to the business - since the early 40s) has a license to manufacture more itself, and has been looking into follow-on designs (AJ-1000, AJ-1E6)

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Unhappy

Boo.

I was sorely disappointed as I was close enough this afternoon to have seen the rocket in flight. I should still be able to see the exhaust at liftoff from my house but I was kind of excited to see the rocket itself. Oh well.

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It happens to the best of us

"Uh, I have some screws left over, is that a problem?"

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Windows

And the cost...?

Bad luck, Antares. Let's hope things go better in a couple of days.

Would anyone care to speculate on the cost of an Antares rocket? SpaceX charged NASA a hundred-something million dollars to send Dragon to the ISS & they're famous (and pretty much unique, in fact) for advertising their launch costs (54 million dollars on wiki as I type this) for satellite launches but there doesn't seem to be anything out there for Antares costs.

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Coat

Re: And the cost...?

If you have to ask, you can't afford it.

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Re: And the cost...?@Kharkov

$1.9 bn for eight "production" launches and two tests, which is $190m per launch. That of course includes Orbital Sciences direct costs, their overheads and profit. In 2012 their corporate gross margin was 23.6%, so if Antares was operating at the same margin as the company then I'd guess that each launch had a direct cost of $145m. There's reason to believe that the launcher business has slightly lower margins than the satellites business, which would push the cost per Antares launcher up by perhaps $5m, and I can't see any compelling reason to believe they'd make a materially higher or lower margin on Antares compared to their other launch vehicles.

So give or take, $150m per shot. That might seem high compared to SpaceX, but remember that SpaceX are new kids on the block. Orbital Sciences have built and launched over 600 launch vehicles, SpaceX have around 50 under their belt. I very much doubt that SpaceX could loft a given payload materially cheaper than Orbital Sciences, as technology and fuel costs are going to be broadly similar. SpaceX are also privately held, so there's no transparency on their claim, whereas Orbital Sciences are at least a listed company.

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Re: And the cost...?@Kharkov

"So give or take, $150m per shot. That might seem high compared to SpaceX, but remember that SpaceX are new kids on the block. Orbital Sciences have built and launched over 600 launch vehicles, SpaceX have around 50 under their belt."

That sounds more like what Spacex have on their launch manifest, not what they have launched.

" I very much doubt that SpaceX could loft a given payload materially cheaper than Orbital Sciences, as technology and fuel costs are going to be broadly similar."

You might like to re think that assumption.

F9 is essentially 1 tank design in 2 sizes and 1 engine design in 2 variants. All tankage is mfg in house and most of the engine hardware is as well (as is most of the GNC) at one site. Moving their stages needs a wide load permit and a big truck. Their propellants are about the cheapest commonly used for rocket propulsion (LOX c$0.1/lb, RP1 4x), available from multiple suppliers and are not carried on the stages when they are being moved around the country. They use a 10 person pad crew according to Gwen Shotwell, Spacex VP, which is very low (Ariane V uses about 110).

Orbital source S1 from Russia, Engines from Aerojet and S2 from Hercules (who IIRC partly own them and whose stage costs doubled the development cost of the Pegasus LV). All mfgs are critical to Antares flying and are free to raise prices at will. Transporting S2 (10s of tonnes of high explosive) can be done on a regular trailer, provided you've got a hazmat plan (and some very big fire extinguishers) in place along the whole route and a bunch of armed guards to make sure no trailer trash terrorists get their hands on it. I don't have priceing on solids but IIRC Shutlle SRB's were around $5/lb of propellant loading IE 10x the total unit cost for LOX/RP1 for substantially less Isp). I'd suggest they are not "broadly similar" on propellant cost. I don't know how big a pad crew they use.

" SpaceX are also privately held, so there's no transparency on their claim, whereas Orbital Sciences are at least a listed company."

There is a NASA cost study based on cost data Spacex handed to them Vs the industry standard cost model. They came in about 4x cheaper but the figures are available online.

What NASA are paying to both companies is a matter of record.

As for what Orbitals accounts show all corporate accounts need to taken with a big pinch of salt.

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Boffin

What's not mentioned

The umbilical was connected to the 2nd stage.

Which is the bit that is built in the USA but was not included in their earlier Wet Dress Rehearsal (it's a solid, so no wetness involved). Had it been a full dress rehearsal perhaps they would have picked it up but all previous Orbital flights have been solids, so I guess they felt there was nothing new for them to learn. Which turned out to be quite a heroic strategy.

As for cost Vs price. This is a "risk reduction" flight which NASA added to the COTS budget. IIRC they kicked in about $360m (but the figure is out there) As Orbital is the "safe pair of hands" option for NASA they were planned to fly 1 demo flight that would berth to the ISS on the 1st go (as opposed to those dangerously unproven Spacex cowboys, who NASA felt would need 3 flights to achieve this).

As for what NASA are paying Orbital per launch divide the fee by the # of launches. What it's costing Orbital is another matter.

Note this is a fairly minor glitch and the equivalent Dragon flights also had launch delays. I'll note Orbital started about 18 months behind Spacex when COTS (the development programme) started and are now about 36 months behind where Spacex is (This is the equivalent of the Spacex F9/Dragon simulator, not even the "cheese" delivery flight).

Orbital does a lot of business in missiles defense solutions so this is not quite the core interest for them that it is for Spacex.

But it would have been nice to see the start of competition.

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NK-33

The NK-33 has a fascinating history. Built for the unsuccessful Soviet N-1 moon rocket (0-4 test launches) in '67(?) they sat rotting in a warehouse for decades before being rediscovered.

I say good luck to Orbital. A little competition for SpaceX has to be a good thing.

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Yag
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Re: NK-33

Indeed, and the fact they still existed could have meant some time in the gulag for Nikolai Kuznetsov and his engineers, because orders were given to scrap everything related to the failure of the lunar launchers...

Watched and interesting documentary on this story : http://youtu.be/rEX0IHIn0_4

BTW, there's rumor of restart of production of this unique engine.

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Wallops Flight Facility

Is that anywhere near the Crash Bang test range?

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Fact check

"Antares is scheduled for eight ISS resupply missions during 2013 under a $1.9 billion contract."

Mmmmm, that seems a bit quick, I don't think they have anything else scheduled to go up this year do they? Its a multi-year deal. Dragon goes again in November but that's it for COTS this year.

I'm 50/50 on wanting Orbital to succeed personally, SpaceX do need some competition to emerge in a few years, but this isn't really a true competitor, more a fail-safe. Still, its all moving in the right direction.

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Anonymous Coward

un-informed opinion follows...

As a non rocket scientist, the last paragraph sounds a bit 'dogs breakfast' to me. Like making a modern new car out of an old Zil, and a Lada. However, as I say in the title, I'm fecking clueless me.....

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Pint

"...premature disconnection of a second-stage umbilical."

I've always admired the handiwork of those that designed and built those umbilicals that fall away from the side of the Saturn V rockets, and anything similar. I figured that their work was generally under-appreciated, so I explicitly deeply appreciated it.

This failure is deeply disturbing to me.

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Boffin

Re: "...premature disconnection of a second-stage umbilical."

"I've always admired the handiwork of those that designed and built those umbilicals that fall away from the side of the Saturn V rockets, and anything similar. I figured that their work was generally under-appreciated, so I explicitly deeply appreciated it."

It is indeed trickier than it seems. Trickiest of all are the T0 one that have to unplug exactly at liftoff. It can get messy if they don't.

For the full details you'll need the NTRS SP8000 series. I cannot recall which one covers designing umbilicals and connectors.

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Better premature

Than late. Having a moving rocket pulled to one side by the umbilicals could be..... difficult.

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Flame

It's an ethernet cable that fell out

Which is why it takes 24 hours for another launch, it takes that long for the network guy to get out there.

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Thumb Up

Better luck for Saturday at 10pm UK time.

Title says it all.

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Unhappy

No sorry. Did'nt work. Going to have a shot today.

Might work, might not

5pm EDT which (I think) is about 7pm UK time.

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Went off without a hitch and all nanosats operating normally.

Now onward to their first ISS delivery.

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