After its rocket explosion last week, Orbital Sciences Corp. is ditching the Soviet-era engines used on its Antares rocket.
The preliminary investigation is pointing the finger at a turbopump failure on one of the two AJ26 engines which caused the rocket to explode 15 seconds into its mission to the ISS.
What about Orbital Sciences commitment to NASA to send supplies to the ISS? They will outsource a couple of their supply missions while they “accelerate” the upgrade of the medium-class launcher’s main propulsion system.
One or two supply missions will take place with non-Antares rockets according to the company.
As for damage at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) launch complex at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility? Orbital Sciences expects repairs to start soon with launch operations with the upgraded Antares rocket beginning in 2016.
“Orbital is taking decisive action to fulfill our commitments to NASA in support of safe and productive operations of the Space Station. While last week’s Antares failure was very disappointing to all of us, the company is already implementing a contingency plan to overcome this setback. We intend to move forward safely but also expeditiously to put our CRS cargo program back on track and to accelerate the introduction of our upgraded Antares rocket,” said Mr. David W. Thompson, Orbital’s Chairman and Chief Executive Officer.
Thompson also touched on the financial impacts the setback will cost the company.
“Exact financial impacts to Orbital will depend on which of several specific options for near-term launches is selected, but they are not expected to be material on an annual basis in 2015. In all cases, no significant adverse effects are projected in 2016 or future years, in part because the cost of the Antares propulsion system upgrade was already part of our internal investment plan during that time.”
Don’t worry about the astronauts on the ISS. They had enough supplies to last them through spring 2015 before last week’s failed launch. Plus, other companies including SpaceX deliver supplies to the ISS on a regular basis. This isn’t your ‘just in-time’ Walmart deliveries. The ISS is well stocked, in part, to handle situations such as the Antares rocket launch failure.