Launch Pad Damage Discernible in Aftermath of Catastrophic Antares Launch Failure – Exclusive Photos

Damage is visible to Launch Pad 0A following catastrophic failure of Orbital Sciences Antares rocket moments after liftoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Story updated with link to Ken Kremer interview with NBC Nightly News[/caption]

NASA WALLOPS FLIGHT FACILITY, VA – Some damage is clearly discernible to the Antares rocket launch pad in the aftermath of the sudden catastrophic explosion that completely consumed the rocket and its NASA contracted cargo just seconds after its liftoff NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Va, at 6:22 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, October 28.

From a public viewing area about two miles away, I captured some side views of the pad complex and surroundings.

Check out my before and after views of the launch pad to compare the scenery

I was interviewed by NBC News and you can watch the entire story and see my Antares explosion photos featured at NBC Nightly News on Oct. 29 here.

View of Orbital Sciences Antares  rocket standing at Launch Pad 0A three hours prior to catastrophic failure following liftoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. Note all 4 lighting suppression rods intact. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
View of Orbital Sciences Antares rocket standing at Launch Pad 0A three hours prior to catastrophic failure following liftoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. Note all 4 lighting suppression rods intact. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

The aborted blastoff of the 14 story Antares rocket ended in a raging inferno that set the sky on fire in raging inferno starting barely 10 seconds after what appeared to be a normal liftoff.

Looking at the photos, its immediately apparent that two of the pads four lightning suppression rods have been blown away. Indeed in the photos one can see them being hurled away in the swirling inferno.

Close-up view reveal some damage to Antares transporter erector launcher and scorch mark at water deluge tower at Launch Pad 0A following catastrophic failure of Orbital Sciences Antares rocket moments after liftoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Close-up view reveal some damage to Antares transporter erector launcher and scorch mark at water deluge tower at Launch Pad 0A following catastrophic failure of Orbital Sciences Antares rocket moments after liftoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

There is also some noticeable damage to the transporter erector launcher used to move transport and raise the rocket to its vertical launch position.

The good news is that the launch ramp leading to the launch ramp leading to the launch mount is still intact. The giant water deluge tower is still standing.

The outer structure of the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) appears intact following the Antares launch failure on Oct. 28, 2014. Final assembly and processing of the Antares rocket and Cygnus module takes place inside the HIF.   Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
The outer structure of the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) appears intact following the Antares launch failure on Oct. 28, 2014. Final assembly and processing of the Antares rocket and Cygnus module takes place inside the HIF. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

Likewise the processing facility where the Antares rocket undergoes final assembly and integration with the Cygnus cargo module appears to have escaped damage, at least on the two sides visible to me.

The outer structure of the Horizontal Integration Facility (HIF) appears intact with no significant harm following the launch failure. The HIF is located about 1 mile north of pad 0A.

The most severe damage was suffered by the nearby sounding rocket launcher with the entire side facing the pad blown away.

Sounding rocket launcher suffered severe damage as seen in this close-up view following catastrophic failure of Orbital Sciences Antares rocket moments after liftoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Sounding rocket launcher suffered severe damage as seen in this close-up view following catastrophic failure of Orbital Sciences Antares rocket moments after liftoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

Watch here for Ken’s onsite reporting direct from NASA Wallops.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Orbital Sciences Antares rocket explodes violently and is consumed in a gigantic aerial fireball seconds after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014 at 6:22 p.m.  Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Orbital Sciences Antares rocket explodes violently and is consumed in a gigantic aerial fireball seconds after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014 at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

Antares Launch Calamity Unfolds – Dramatic Photo Sequence

Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket explodes violently and is consumed in a gigantic aerial fireball seconds after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Story updated with link to Ken Kremer interview with NBC Nightly News[/caption]

NASA WALLOPS FLIGHT FACILITY, VA – The first night launch of Orbital Sciences’ commercial Antares rocket suddenly ended in total calamity some 10 seconds or so after liftoff when the base of the first stage exploded without warning over the launch pad at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, Va, at 6:22 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, October 28.

Watch the Antares launch disaster unfold into a raging inferno in this dramatic sequence of my photos shot on site.Check out my raw video of the launch – here. Read my first hand account- here.

I was interviewed by NBC News and you can watch the entire story and see my Antares explosion photos featured at NBC Nightly News on Oct. 29 here.

I was an eyewitness to the awful devastation suffered by the Orb-3 mission from the press viewing site at NASA Wallops located at a distance of about 1.8 miles away with a completely clear view to the launch complex.

A prime suspect in the disaster could be the pair Soviet-era built and US modified AJ26 engines that power the rocket’s first stage.

Another AJ26 engine failed and exploded during acceptance testing on May 22, 2014 at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi. An extensive analysis and recheck by Orbital Scoences was conducted to clear this pair for flight.

See my exclusive photo of the AJ-26 engines below and a follow up story shortly.

Ignition of Orbital Sciences Antares rocket appears nominal at first until it explodes moments after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Ignition of Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket appears nominal at first until it explodes moments after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

It was a picture perfect evening.

Blastoff of the 14 story Antares rocket took place from the beachside Launch Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA Wallops situated on the eastern shore of Virginia.

Base of Orbital Sciences Antares rocket explodes moments after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Base of Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket explodes moments after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Base of Orbital Sciences Antares rocket explodes moments after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Base of Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket explodes moments after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Antares loses thrust after rocket explosion and begins falling back  after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Antares loses thrust after rocket explosion and begins falling back after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Orbital Sciences Antares rocket explodes intoan aerial fireball seconds after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014 at 6:22 p.m.  Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket explodes into an aerial fireball seconds after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Antares falls back to the ground and being consumed shortly after blastoff and first stage explosion at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Antares falls back to the ground and being consumed shortly after blastoff and first stage explosion at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Orbital Sciences Antares rocket explodes violently and is consumed in a gigantic aerial fireball seconds after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014 at 6:22 p.m.  Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket explodes violently and is consumed in a gigantic aerial fireball seconds after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Orbital Sciences Antares rocket explodes into an aerial fireball seconds after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014 at 6:22 p.m.  Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket explodes into an aerial fireball seconds after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

The highly anticipated 1st night launch of Antares would have wowed tens of millions of spectators up and down the eastern seaboard from South Carolina to Maine. Overall it was the 5th Antares launch.

The doomed Orb-3 mission was bound for the International Space Station (ISS) on a flight to bring up some 5000 pounds of (2200 kg) of science experiments, research instruments, crew provisions, spare parts, spacewalk and computer equipment and gear on a critical resupply mission in the Cygnus resupply flight dubbed Orb-3 bound for the International Space Station (ISS).

Orbital Sciences technicians at work on two AJ26 first stage engines at the base of an Antares rocket during exclusive visit by Ken Kremer/Universe Today at NASA Wallaps.  These engines powered the successful Antares  liftoff on Jan. 9, 2014 at NASA Wallops, Virginia bound for the ISS.  Credit: Ken Kremer - kenkremer.com
Orbital Sciences technicians at work on two AJ26 first stage engines at the base of an Antares rocket during exclusive visit by Ken Kremer/Universe Today at NASA Wallaps. These engines powered the successful Antares liftoff on Jan. 9, 2014 at NASA Wallops, Virginia bound for the ISS. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

The investigation into the launch failure will be led by Orbital Sciences.

“The root cause will be determined and corrective actions taken,” Frank Culbertson, Orbital’s Executive Vice President and General Manager of its Advanced Programs Group, said at a post launch briefing.

Watch here for Ken’s onsite reporting direct from NASA Wallops.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Antares Commercial Rocket Destroyed in Devastating Fireball – Video

NASA WALLOPS FLIGHT FACILITY, VA – Barely a day ago I witnessed the sudden and utter destruction of an Orbital Sciences Antares rocket being consumed in a totally unexpected devastating fireball moments after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the eastern shore of Virginia at 6:22 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, October 28.

See above my raw video footage of the catastrophic Orb-3 launch taken from the media viewing site at NASA Wallops located about 1.8 miles away from the beachside Launch Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at Wallops.

I was interviewed by NBC News and you can watch the entire story and see my Antares explosion photos featured at NBC Nightly News on Oct. 29 here.

The highly anticipated 1st night launch of Antares would have been visible to tens of millions up and down the eastern seaboard from South Carolina to Maine. Overall it was the 5th Antares launch.

The doomed mission was bound for the International Space Station (ISS) on a flight to bring up some 5000 pounds of (2200 kg) of science experiments, research instruments, crew provisions, spare parts, spacewalk and computer equipment and gear on the critical resupply mission dubbed Orb-3 bound for the International Space Station (ISS).

Listen closely as the sound gradually builds with Antares slowly lifting off from the pad to a deafening crescendo as it explodes violently and without warning followed by multiple blasts and detonations as the rockets breaks apart in a hail of dangerous debris.

You can clearly here the shocked voices of spectators disbelief, including my own, at was has just transpired.

Then you’ll see the see the ‘shock and awe’ as the sky lights on fire with the rockets catastrophic destruction and the camera shakes as the blasts shock wave zooms past us at the media site followed by a quick blast of noticeable heat.

Rapidly thereafter our NASA escorts ordered an immediate evacuation to protect everyone lives. There were no injuries.

Read my inside account of the days terrible events – here.

Orbital Sciences Antares rocket explodes intoan aerial fireball seconds after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014 at 6:22 p.m.  Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Orbital Sciences Antares rocket explodes intoan aerial fireball seconds after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014 at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

It was the heaviest cargo load yet lofted by a Cygnus. Some 800 pounds additional cargo was loaded on board compared to earlier flights. That was enabled by using the more powerful ATK CASTOR 30XL engine to power the second stage for the first time.

A steady train of science experiments and supplies are required to continue operating the massive orbiting outpost and its six person crew.

Watch here for Ken’s onsite reporting direct from NASA Wallops.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer

Orbital Sciences Antares rocket explodes into an aerial fireball seconds after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014 at 6:22 p.m.  Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Orbital Sciences Antares rocket explodes into an aerial fireball seconds after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014 at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

Catastrophic Failure Dooms Antares Launch to Space Station – Gallery

NASA WALLOPS FLIGHT FACILITY, VA – Moments after a seemingly glorious liftoff, an Orbital Sciences Corp. commercial Antares rocket suffered a catastrophic failure and exploded into a spectacular aerial fireball over the launch pad at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility on the eastern shore of Virginia that doomed the mission bound for the International Space Station on Tuesday, October 28.

The 14 story tall Antares rocket blasted off at 6:22 p.m. EDT from the beachside Launch Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport (MARS) at NASA Wallops on only its 5th launch overall.

I witnessed and photographed the launch from the media viewing area on site at NASA Wallops from a distance of about 1.8 miles away.

This story is being updated. See a gallery of photos herein.

Antares was carrying Orbital’s privately developed Cygnus pressurized cargo freighter loaded with nearly 5000 pounds (2200 kg) of science experiments, research instruments, crew provisions, spare parts, spacewalk and computer equipment and gear on a critical resupply mission dubbed Orb-3 bound for the International Space Station (ISS).

Orbital Sciences Antares rocket explodes intoan aerial fireball seconds after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014 at 6:22 p.m.  Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Orbital Sciences Antares rocket explodes into an aerial fireball seconds after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014, at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

It was the heaviest cargo load yet lofted by a Cygnus. Some 800 pounds additional cargo was loaded on board compared to earlier flights. That was enabled by using the more powerful ATK CASTOR 30XL engine to power the second stage for the first time.

Everything appeared normal at first. But within about five seconds or so there was obviously a serious mishap as the rocket was no longer ascending. It was just frozen in time. And I was looking directly at the launch, not through the viewfinder of my cameras.

Something was noticeably amiss almost instantly as the rocket climbed only very slowly, barely clearing the tower it seemed to me. The rocket failed to emerge from the normal huge plume of smoke and ash that’s purposely deflected away by the flame trench at the base of the pad.

I was stunned trying to comprehend what was happening because it was all so wrong.

It was absolutely nothing like the other Antares launches I’ve witnessed from the media site.

Orbital Sciences Antares rocket explodes into an aerial fireball seconds after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014 at 6:22 p.m.  Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Orbital Sciences Antares rocket explodes into an aerial fireball seconds after blastoff from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, 2014 at 6:22 p.m. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

I knew as a scientist and journalist that I was watching a mounting disaster unfolding before my eyes.

Instead of ascending on an accelerating arc, a mammoth ball of fire, smoke and ash blew up the entire sky in front of us like a scene out of hell or war. Literally the sky was set on fire unlike anything I’ve ever witnessed.

A series of mid air explosions rocked the area. I could feel a slight pressure wave followed by a mild but noticeable heat wave passing by.

Then the rocket began to fall back to Earth. Then the ground blew up too as the rocket pieces hit the ground and exploded into a hail of smithereens in every direction.

By this time our NASA escorts starting yelling to abandon everything in place and head immediately for the buses and evacuate the area. The ground fire spread mostly to the northern portion of the pad and the expanding air borne plume also blew northwards. The ground fire was still burning over a half hour later.

Thankfully, everyone got out safe and there were no injuries due to the excellent effort by our NASA escorts trained for exactly these types of unexpected circumstances.

It’s heartbreaking for everyone’s painstaking efforts to get to the point of liftoff after years of effort to fulfill the critical need to resupply that station with the science equipment and experiments for which it was built.

More later

Antares rocket stand erect, reflecting off the calm waters the night before their first night launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, targeted for Oct. 27 at 6:45 p.m.  Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com
Antares rocket stands erect, reflecting off the calm waters the night before the first night launch planned from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility, VA, on Oct. 28, which ended in disaster. Credit: Ken Kremer – kenkremer.com

Watch here for Ken’s onsite reporting direct from NASA Wallops.

Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news.

Ken Kremer