back to article NASA photo gallery: How to blow $200m of rocket in seconds

Last November, Orbital Sciences lost one of its Antares rockets in an almighty explosion seconds after takeoff. When it become clear the stack was falling back to Earth rather than soaring toward the heavens, a launch controller detonated the scuttling charges on the craft. It was supposed to clear supplies and equipment to the …

  1. Fibbles
    Pint

    Despite what you've heard, rocket science is easy.

    Rocket engineering on the other hand...

    Currently raising a pint to everyone involved in getting our species off this rock. Even a stumble gets us closer to the ultimate goal.

    1. Jan 0

      Re: Ultimate goal

      Remote observation of the solar system is dandy. What's so desirable about getting our species off this rock? Maybe it's better that we all die in the looming overpopulation wars (water, food, oil, religion and so on) than contaminate the rest of the universe.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ultimate goal

        You mean, contaminate the universe-full-of-unthinking-matter with the disease of intelligence? Heaven forfend! We are scum, right enough. Those who suggest that WE are the only known intelligences in creation and are therefore special are just full of themselves. The sooner we go extinct the better for everyone.

        Oh wait...

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: Ultimate goal

          How else are cats going to populate the universe unless their servants keep building rockets ?

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Ultimate goal

            I question that cats are intelligent. Who did they choose for servants?

            1. Richard Taylor 2 Silver badge

              Re: Ultimate goal

              I question that cats are intelligent. Who did they choose for servants?

              Dumb animals of course - uhhhh

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Ultimate goal

                Cats? It's BEAVERS! Yes, BEAVERS! Cats are just the pussy patsies. Basically they are under BEAVER CONTROL. From their underwater LAIRS they plan to retake what is RIGHTLY THEIRS, i.e. at least the Orion Arm, if not more. Millions of years ago, they were stranded here. But they didn't forget! ORBITAL BEAVERS! Remember that!!

                1. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge

                  Re: Ultimate goal

                  @AC

                  BEAVERS?

                  Any pictures? Preferably, not stuffed.

            2. DropBear Silver badge

              Re: Ultimate goal

              "I question that cats are intelligent. Who did they choose for servants?"

              Of course they are. Why else would they hunt mice...? They know who is responsible for this version of Earth...

            3. Lars Silver badge
              Happy

              Re: Ultimate goal

              "Who did they choose for servants?", The best suited for the task of course.

            4. Phil O'Sophical Silver badge

              Re: Ultimate goal

              I question that cats are intelligent. Who did they choose for servants?

              Hey, you have to work with what you've got.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Ultimate goal

                I question that cats are intelligent. Who did they choose for servants?

                Quote Sarge from the Penguins of Madagascar

                "we need those dexterous thumbs"

          2. Trigonoceps occipitalis

            Re: Ultimate goal

            Danny John-Jules got there first.

        2. TheOtherHobbes

          Re: Ultimate goal

          >You mean, contaminate the universe-full-of-unthinking-matter with the disease of intelligence?

          We invented Justin Bieber, Windows 10, and the revised Fruit & Nut Bar.

          Be afraid, universe. Be very afraid.

      2. Scott Broukell
        Meh

        Re: Ultimate goal

        Well nearly, but no cats I'm afraid. We are here to build machines. Since our ancestors first blinked and rubbed their eyes in the dawn sunlight thousands of years ago all we have ever done is smash rocks together, rub sticks together and sought to make technology. Ultimately machines can go far beyond the limits of meatbags. Machines, harnessing ever more developed AI, will populate the universe, we are but the seed of machines making. Perhaps machines will carry some of our history and biological echo with them, who knows. We certainly crave being absorbed into machines ourselves and exhibit an unhealthy fascination for them, but our frailty is our undoing, that and our propensity to destroy the very magnificent biological environment from which we originated. But all that is a side show. The development of matter in the universe seems to be chaotic and clumsy, biochemistry is but one quirky stepping stone in that story. When sub-atomic quantum pathways become open to machines, machines themselves will seek out more and more energy. They will in turn crave so much more energy that ultimately the circle will be closed and a new singularity of immense and immeasurable inverse potential will 'pop', briefly into existence, and then expand very rapidly into . . . .

        1. Synonymous Howard

          Re: Ultimate goal

          I await our V'Ger overlord.

          1. Youngone Silver badge

            Re: Ultimate goal

            I await our V-Giny overlord.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Ultimate goal

        > What's so desirable about getting our species off this rock?

        "The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn't have a space program."

        - Larry Niven and/or Carl Sagan

        1. Neil Barnes Silver badge

          "The dinosaurs became extinct because they didn't have a space program."

          Nah... they just could push the launch button with those silly little arms.

  2. TheRealRoland

    hmmm...

    Came here for 'packed a wallop' jokes. Left disappointed

    :-)

    1. Hero Protagonist

      Re: hmmm...

      Only because you beat me to it.

  3. AbortRetryFail
    Mushroom

    Mooltipass

    Big badda-boom.

  4. Chris Miller

    "toxic jet fuel coated the entire site"

    I was wondering what was so toxic about RP-1, kerosene very similar to standard jet fuel, most of which would have gone up in the explosion. I think it may have been the third stage, which was (probably, a solid fuel option is available) powered by N2O4 and Hydrazine, both of which are pretty nasty stuff.

    1. Tom 7 Silver badge

      Re: "toxic jet fuel coated the entire site"

      This stuff is nasty as hell but its also very unstable - I would imagine just not going near it for a short while would clear it up pretty well.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: "toxic jet fuel coated the entire site"

        > just not going near it for a short while would clear it up pretty well.

        Unfortunately not. I hear Hydrazine is a big problem for Kzahstani peasants' livers. I also hear that hydrazine motors moved to the museum better be underneath a glass box, but as they say [citation needed]. And "While the ecotoxicity is not known, the products of biodegradation of Hydrazine are more toxic than the parent compound."

        1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

          Re: "toxic jet fuel coated the entire site"

          The last I heard was that the residual agent orange and hydrazine left over from the Vietnam war got disposed of in the Rocky Mountains, Colorado thus spreading it evenly, all the way through to California. As for overpopulation you only have to scroll across the USA in Google Maps to find loads of room, some of it still unpolluted (relatively unpolluted.)

          > NASA said the problem stemmed from either poor engine design, a defect in the equipment, or possibly

          > that foreign objects got inside the pumps and caused the failure. Orbital Sciences claims the problems

          > are solely down to the Russian rocket motors.

          There is no way that the designers, builders and owners of that rocket are any less than completely responsible for the demise of said rocket unless they had an hostage situation where they were being coerced into using an old, untested, foreign made, unit that was likely to have bits in it that were either rubbing or various other consenting, contentious, inclusive unreasonables.

        2. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: "toxic jet fuel coated the entire site"

          "I also hear that hydrazine motors moved to the museum better be underneath a glass box, "

          Not just motors. Anything that was along for the ride, even if it spent several weeks afterwards sitting 8 feet down in the mud of a gyuanian swamp. (As the part that's sitting under glass at $orkplace did)

        3. cray74

          Re: "toxic jet fuel coated the entire site"

          "Unfortunately not. I hear Hydrazine is a big problem for Kzahstani peasants' livers."

          The Antares rarely uses hydrazine, only on an optional third stage (the Orbital Sciences BTS). The Cygnus in this explosion had a few hundred kilograms of monomethylhydrazine, which is also pretty nasty and a close cousin of regular hydrazine, but unlike the Rooskie launches from Kazakhstan, the Cygnus and Antares didn't exactly drop intact rocket stages on the ground. Range safety pulled the trigger and released the MMH into an ongoing giant fireball, so there's probably not much to leak into local soil.

    2. Charles Manning

      Re: "toxic jet fuel coated the entire site"

      "by N2O4 and Hydrazine, both of which are pretty nasty stuff." but neither of these are jet fuel. They only work in a rocket.

      Article should have said "toxic rocket fuel".

  5. GrumpenKraut Silver badge
    Thumb Up

    Not the place to be.

    That's one impressive snap!

  6. Stoneshop Silver badge

    Clearly

    the epigram from John Clark's Ignition still holds: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.".

    1. Graham Marsden

      @Stoneshop - Re: Clearly

      He was quoting George Santayana

      1. Stoneshop Silver badge

        Re: @Stoneshop - Clearly

        It has probably been quoted more often, for all kinds of situations, than there have been rocket launches, successful or not, but finding it on the title page of Ignition! was particularly apt.

      2. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

        Re: @Stoneshop - Clearly

        > so, not 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, 10, 9, 8, 7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1, or was it?

        TalkTalk about a simple explanation, though!

  7. Your alien overlord - fear me

    Why wasn't this posted on November the 5th? I would have thought the Yanks would approve of someone trying to blow up their colonial overlords.

    1. I. Aproveofitspendingonspecificprojects

      Something about not boeing to the inevitable

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hold My Beer

    Seeing these pictures makes me think of the old, "Here hold my beer, watch this ...".

    I thought after the last explosion they swore off the Russian Engines? They were developing their own new engines.

    1. Alistair Silver badge
      Windows

      Re: Hold My Beer

      Actually, that should read:

      "Here hold my Timmies and watch this...."

      but then, I'm north of the 49th.

  9. 2+2=5 Silver badge
    Joke

    The second to last picture...

    It's my new, patented, anti-drone technology.

    1. Mark 85 Silver badge

      Re: The second to last picture...

      But the tech is pretty hard on what you're trying to protect. I guess if you get the drone, it's worth it then.

  10. Charles Manning

    All this blaming the Russian motors is bullshit

    Sure, the Russian motors might have been poorly designed, manufactured maintained and deployed but Orbital Sciences (now Orbital ATK) designed a launch system around these motors. They cannot abdicate responsibility by just blaming a component they designed in.

  11. zeltus

    Toxic contamination?

    I thought the Antares was fuelled by liquid oxygen and RP-1 (refined jet fuel) - how did this combo manage to contaminate the Wallops site then? Shurelee most of it would have burned up when the flight was scuttled. And since airliners burn a less-refined variant of the stuff, just how toxic is it anyway?

  12. Turtle

    Expensive.

    Those are some very expensive photographs they've got there.

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Oh no!

    Jebediah Kerman!

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