BREAKING: Antares Rocket Explodes at Liftoff

Seconds after liftoff, Orbital Science’s Antares rocket exploded as it rose from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at Wallops Island, Virginia. In video, the explosion appeared to come at the base of the rocket. The entire stack then fell back to the ground, with a second larger explosion.

According to NASA TV, there were no injuries reported at the launch site but there appears to be damage to the launch pad.

We’ll provide more information and updates as they become available. NASA and Orbital said they would be scheduling a news conference. Our Ken Kremer is on location at Wallops.

This is the first launch failure for NASA’s commercial space companies. Antares has had five successful launches. The launch was originally scheduled for Oct. 27 but was scrubbed when a boat entered restricted waters off the coast from the launch site.

The mission, was the third of eight Commercial Resupply Services missions that Orbital Sciences is under contract to NASA. The Cygnus capsule, named by Orbital the “SS Deke Slayton” after the late astronaut, was carrying 2,290 kilograms of cargo for the International Space Station.

This video was shot by journalist Matthew Travis at the press site at Wallops:

Every Falcon 9 Launch in One Image

If you’re a fan of SpaceX, you’ll love the website SpaceXStats. Writ large on the site are real-time countdowns to upcoming launches, all sorts of SpaceX statistics, launch manifest info, and fun trivia (there’s a countdown to how many days until Elon Musk’s bet about getting to Mars by 2020 or 2025 expires.)

The owner of the site, Lukas Davia, recently created a fantastic Falcon 9 launch collage, which was originally posted on imgur and discussed on Reddit (where there’s a 16,000-strong SpaceX community).

Lukas told Universe Today that one r/SpaceX user recently inquired if anyone had come across SpaceX montages. “While I don’t have the time for any serious video editing, I did have enough time spare to create a photo montage,” Lukas said via email. “Since I’m the owner of, I already had all the launch images and assets necessary to produce it, stored locally on my computer. Using Adobe Photoshop, the whole process took just over an hour, from a blank canvas to the final image – and didn’t require much more than layer masks and guides to create. I then submitted it to /r/SpaceX & /r/space on Reddit, where it (quite surprisingly) managed to generate over 1,300,000 views in less than 24 hours.”

He added that he does plan on producing similar SpaceX graphics and perhaps updating this one in the future, “although I fear at SpaceX’s recent launch cadence, it’ll become unsuitably wide at some point!” he said.

Be sure to click on the image above to see the full resolution size.

Thanks to Lukas for sharing his montage with Universe Today.

Awesome Video of a Satellite in Orbit

Here’s a great video from a camera mounted on the exterior of the TechDemoSat-1, an in-orbit technology demonstration mission from the UK. It launched on July 8, 2014 on a Soyuz-2, and the video shows the satellite moments after separation from the upper stage. The satellite even took a selfie, below.

The video shows the satellite’s rotation and reveals a spectacular vista of “blue marble” Earth (visible is cloudy skies over the Pacific, south of French Polynesia).

It’s interesting to note that some identified flying objects zip past the field of view: At :25 seconds, the Fregat upper stage of the Soyuz-2 rocket appears as a gold object passing away from the satellite left to right at a distance of approximately 60 meters. At :34 seconds a white “dot” crosses the frame left to right – which has been identified as one of the other satellites that shared the ride into orbit with TechDemoSat-1.

“It is very rare to see actual footage of our satellites in orbit,” said Sir Martin Sweeting, Executive Chairman of Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd (SSTL), the company behind the mission, “and so viewing the video taken from TechDemoSat-1 moments after separation from the rocket has been a hugely rewarding and exciting experience for everyone at SSTL. We are delighted with the progress of commissioning the TechDemoSat-1 platform, and are looking forward to the next phase – the demonstration of a range of new technologies being flown on this innovative mission.”

The satellite is roughly the size of a refrigerator but wieghs just 150kg. TechDemoSat (TDS-1) carries eight separate payloads from UK academia and industry plus other payloads from SSTL for product development. Find out more here from SSTL.

45 Years Ago Today: Relive the Historic Apollo 11 Launch

45 years ago today — on July 16th, 1969 — the Apollo 11 crew left Earth for the first human mission to land on the Moon. Launching on at Saturn V rocket from Cape Kennedy, the mission sent Commander Neil Armstrong, Command Module Pilot Michael Collins and Lunar Module Pilot Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin into an initial Earth-orbit, and then two hours and 44 minutes after launch, another burn of the engines put Apollo 11 into a translunar orbit.

If you want to re-live the launch and the mission, there are several ways you can participate. We’ve included here a few different replays of the launch, varying from a quick recap to a detailed look at the launch itself. Above is the newscast of the launch from CBS news with Walter Cronkite, and we’ve got more below.

Also below is information on several webcasts and other events that NASA has planned to commemorate the anniversary.

Here’s a detailed look at the launch in ultra-slow motion, with narration:

Here is some remastered high definition footage from NASA of the Apollo 11 launch, but there’s no audio.

And here’s a quick look at the entire Apollo 11 mission, all in just 100 seconds from Spacecraft Films:

Here are some ways to participate in the anniversary:

On Twitter, @ReliveApollo11 from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum is reliving the highlights from Apollo 11 mission to the Moon in “real time” 45 years later.

Also @NASAHistory is tweeting images and events from the mission, and journalist Amy Shira Teitel (@astVintageSpace ) is tweeting out some interesting pictures, facts and quotes from the mission, in “real time” (again 45 years later).

To join the ongoing conversation on social media about the anniversary and NASA’s deep space exploration plans, use the hashtags #NextGiantLeap and #Apollo45.

On Friday, July 18 at 10:30 a.m. PDT (1:30 p.m. EDT), NASA TV will air a live conversation about the future of space exploration with actor, director and narrator Morgan Freeman. He will speak at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, about his personal vision for space. The event also will include NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman participating from the International Space Station.

If you don’t have NASA TV on your cable or satellite feeds, you can watch online here.

Also on Friday at 3:30 p.m. EDT, NASA will host a discussion with Buzz Aldrin and astronaut Mike Massimino at the Intrepid Sea, Air & Space Museum in New York during the Intrepid Space and Science Festival. NASA also will have exhibits and activities at the festival Thursday, July 17 through Saturday, July 19. There’s more information about the festival here.

On Sunday, July 20 at 7:39 p.m. PDT (10:39 p.m. EDT), when Armstrong opened the spacecraft hatch to begin the first spacewalk on the moon, NASA TV will replay the restored footage of Armstrong and Aldrin’s historic steps on the lunar surface.

On Monday, July 21 at 7 a.m. PDT (10 a.m. EDT) from the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, NASA TV will air live coverage of the renaming of the center’s Operations and Checkout Building in honor of Armstrong, who passed away in 2012. The renaming ceremony will include NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, Kennedy Center Director Robert Cabana, Apollo 11’s Collins, Aldrin and astronaut Jim Lovell, who was the mission’s back-up commander. International Space Station NASA astronauts Wiseman and Steve Swanson, who is the current station commander, also will take part in the ceremony from their orbiting laboratory 260 miles above Earth.

Kennedy’s Operations and Checkout Building has played a vital role in NASA’s spaceflight history. It was used during the Apollo program to process and test the command, service and lunar modules. Today, the facility is being used to process and assemble NASA’s Orion spacecraft, which the agency will use to send astronauts to an asteroid in the 2020s and Mars in the 2030s.

On Thursday, July 24 at 3 p.m. PDT (6 p.m. EDT), which is the 45th anniversary of Apollo 11’s return to Earth, the agency will host a panel discussion — called NASA’s Next Giant Leap — from Comic-Con International in San Diego. Moderated by actor Seth Green, the panel includes Aldrin, NASA Planetary Science Division Director Jim Green, JPL systems engineer Bobak Ferdowsi, and NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, who will talk about Orion and the Space Launch System rocket, which will carry humans on America’s next great adventure in space.

The website will host features, videos, and historic images and audio clips that highlight the Apollo 11 anniversary, as well as the future of human spaceflight. Find it all here.

Also, the Slooh telescope team will celebrate the 45th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing with a high-definition broadcast of the lunar surface on Sunday, July 20th starting at 5:30 PM PDT / 8:30 PM EDT / 00:30 UTC (7/21) – (check International Times here) Slooh will broadcast the event live from a special feed located in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

Viewers can watch the event unfold free on, or in the webcast below. The image stream will be accompanied by discussions led by Slooh host, Geoff Fox, Slooh astronomer, Bob Berman, Slooh Observatory Engineer, Paul Cox, along with numerous special guests, including documentary filmmaker, Duncan Copp, and science journalist, Andrew Chaikin. Viewers can follow updates on the show by using the hashtag #SloohApollo11.

SpaceX Launches Six Commercial Satellites on Falcon 9; Landing Test Ends in “Kaboom”

SpaceX successfully launched six ORBCOMM advanced telecommunications satellites into orbit on Monday, July 14, to significantly upgrade the speed and capacity of their existing data relay network. The launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida had been delayed or scrubbed several times since the original launch date in May due to varying problems from payload integration issues, weather conditions and issues with the Falcon 9 rocket. But the launch went off without a hitch today and ORBCOMM reports that all six satellites have been successfully deployed in orbit.

SpaceX also used this launch opportunity to try and test the reusability of the Falcon 9’s first stage and its landing system while splashing down in the ocean. However, the booster did not survive the splashdown. SpaceX CEO Elon Musk reported that the rocket booster reentry, landing burn and leg deployment worked well, the hull of the first stage “lost integrity right after splashdown (aka kaboom),” Musk tweeted. “Detailed review of rocket telemetry needed to tell if due to initial splashdown or subsequent tip over and body slam.”

SpaceX wanted to test the “flyback” ability to the rocket, slowing down the descent of the rocket with thrusters and deploying the landing legs for future launches so the first stage can be re-used. These tests have the booster “landing” in the ocean. The previous test of the landing system was successful, but the choppy seas destroyed the stage and prevented recovery. Today’s “kaboom” makes recovery of even pieces of this booster unlikely.

As far as the ORBCOMM satellites, the six satellites launched today are the first part of what the company hopes will be a 17-satellite constellation. They hope to have all 17 satellites in orbit by the end of the 2014.

Timelapse: Watch the Antares Rocket Go Vertical on the Launch Pad

Now standing at attention, ready for duty! At about 3:30 p.m. on July 10, Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket was raised to its vertical position at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Launch Pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

Antares is carrying the Cygnus spacecraft loaded with 3,293 pounds (1,494 kg) of supplies for the International Space Station. The craft is scheduled to launch Saturday, July 12 at 1:14 p.m. EDT. UPDATE: Orbital Sciences Corp. has postponed the launch of its Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station until 12:52 p.m. EDT on Sunday, July 13, from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport’s Pad 0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. Severe weather in the Wallops area has repeatedly interrupted Orbital’s operations schedule leading up to the launch.

If you live in the Eastern seaboard area, you might be able to see the launch. Find out how in our detailed article about the launch. This is the second flight to the ISS for the Antares/Cygnus duo.

Original Drawing of MAVEN Launch is a Throwback to the Early Days of Space Exploration

We’ve seen some great images from the launch of the MAVEN spacecraft earlier this week, but this original drawing of the moment of liftoff of the Atlas V carrying MAVEN is remarkable. This pencil illustration is reminiscent of the early days of spaceflight – or perhaps even the pre-spaceflight days, before we had actual images of launches, only our dreams of spaceflight.

“Everyone takes great photos of the launches and I thought a drawing would be something different,” said artist and photographer Wendy Clark from the UK. “True inspiration comes from the things you love most and I think this is why I especially enjoy drawing space related things.”

Like most of us, Wendy watched the launch online and she started her sketches after NASA started receiving telemetry from MAVEN, and said she worked on the drawing for about 24 hours total since Monday. This final version was done with graphite on A3 paper.

“Don’t let anyone tell you drawing a rocket is easy,” she told Universe Today. “This is only the 2nd drawing I have fully completed of a rocket launch. The special missions always interest me and I’m a fan of Atlas V rocket shapes, although they are not easy subjects to draw!”

Wendy said she’s an avid launch fan, although she’s never witnessed a mission launch in person. “One day would be nice to stand and watch this in person,” she said.

The other launch drawing she completed was of the final launch of the space shuttle program, STS-135, and she said she felt like she got to know the shuttle Atlantis like an old friend.

“When you spend 72 hours drawing a momentous event like this you get kind of attached to the subject in a way you can’t immediately understand,” she said. “I got to know every curve by putting what I saw on paper with graphite.”

An original graphite drawing of the final launch of the space shuttle program, STS-135. Credit and copyright: Wendy Clark.
An original graphite drawing of the final launch of the space shuttle program, STS-135. Credit and copyright: Wendy Clark.

See more of Wendy’s drawings and photographs on her Flickr page.

Celebrating MAVEN’s Launch, Planetary Style

MAVEN Launch Planetary Radio

If you can’t attend a rocket launch live, the next best thing might be watching it on a big screen, surrounded by fellow space fans. Today, as the Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft sat atop an Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral, space lovers from southern California collected at the Crawford Family Forum in Pasadena California to watch the launch together.

Our friends at the Planetary Society, along with Southern California Public Radio, hosted the free event, and an excited crowd of space enthusiasts of all ages attended the “launch party.”

Mat Kaplan Bruce Betts KPCC MAVEN
Mat Kaplan and Bruce Betts converse on the upcoming launch of MAVEN from the Crawford Family Forum in Pasadena, CA

Mat Kaplan and Bruce Betts brought the witty banter that listeners of Planetary Radio are familiar with, while Emily Lakdawalla kept the entire forum current with up-to-the-minute updates of MAVEN in her pre-launch.

Portions of Planetary Radio were recorded during the live broadcast, which gave the audience a treat, actually seeing how the radio program is created for special events such as the launch of a spacecraft.

As the timer counted down to 20 minutes before launch, Casey Dreier called in over the big-screen.

Casey, who’s the Advocacy and Outreach Coordinator of the Planetary Society, was on location at Cape Canaveral with the society’s president, Jim Bell. They both shared their experience leading up to the launch and stressed the need to continue planetary exploration in all of its forms.

Moments after Bell ended the call, Bill Nye, The Science Guy himself, called in to the Crawford Family Forum.

Bill Nye in Florida for MAVEN Launch
Bill Nye The Science Guy called in with FaceTime minutes before the launch, pointing to the Atlas V rocket in the distance that would give MAVEN the boost it needs to be on her way to Mars.

Replying to Kaplan’s question about excitement of ‘yet another’ Mars mission, Nye exclaimed, “What? How could there be such a thing as just another Mars mission?!” Nye continued on with a fever pitch about just how amazing it is that humans are able to have a presence on another planet, leaving any mission to Mars being nothing short of extraordinary.

As the clock ticked down and the conversation with The Science Guy ended, the official NASA video feed was brought up on the large projection screen for the excited viewers inside the forum.

Even with seconds remaining on the countdown to ignition, Emily — a seasoned Twitter user — remained dedicated to her Twitter followers while up on stage, keeping everyone in the loop about MAVEN’s upcoming explosive boost from the surface of Earth in the direction of the red planet.

At the Atlas V rocket lifts off, starting MAVEN’s journey to Mars, the room erupted in applause. Mat Kaplan commented “Always exciting. Always scary as hell,” as nearly all eyes were fixed on the video footage of the rocket soaring through the sky or their digital devices, getting new information on the rocket’s fate.

While waiting for official word on how the launch was going, the audience was treated to a live version of a Planetary Radio regular segment: Random Space Facts.

Amazingly enough, Bruce wasn’t able to find anything that happened this week in spaceflight history.

Bruce: “In this week in space history… nothing happened.”
Mat: “I don’t believe that.”
Bruce: “Well, this week MAVEN launched.”

The floor was opened to questions and comments from the audience, allowing children to ask their many questions about the rockets, the spacecraft and what else can be done in Universe. Jim Burke, who worked at Jet Propulsion Laboratory on the Mariner missions commented, “You’re never bored when when you watch a big rocket take off!

MAVEN Launch by David Dickenson
Atlas V “big rocket” launching MAVEN — Photo Credit: David Dickenson (@AstroGuyz)

While MAVEN has her scientific and communication mission ahead of her, it’s easy to conclude that her launch, just like the many that came before her, will inspire people of all ages to at least be more curious as to what’s going on in the Cosmos.

What better way to ensure a better future than to host “launch parties” like this one? The technology is available to allow people from nearly every location on the planet to gather and watch something leave it.

Coming together as a species and residents of this pale blue dot, we can send off our latest mechanical representatives into the Solar System while simultaneously inspiring the youth to embrace their curiosity, creating the future engineers and scientists that bring humanity further into the Universe.

If you missed the live coverage of the launch, here’s the recording, provided by Southern California Public Radio and The Planetary Society:

Watch MAVEN Launch Live!

Live streaming video by Ustream

Once again, we’re heading to Mars! At 18:28 UTC (1:28 p.m. EST), NASA’s Mars Atmosphere and Volatile EvolutioN (MAVEN) spacecraft launched successfully from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, beginning its 10-month journey to Mars. Launching aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, MAVEN will take critical measurements of the Martian upper atmosphere to help scientists understand climate change over the Red Planet’s history.

We’ll keep the live feed from NASA TV up for a while so you can continue to watch all the post-launch action. If you want to see a replay of the launch, see the video below.

Stay tuned for more details on the launch and post-launch activities!

Watch Live: Commercial Antares Rocket Launches to Space Station

UPDATE: Orbital Sciences successfully launched its Cygnus cargo spacecraft aboard its Antares rocket at 10:58 a.m. EDT Wednesday from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad-0A at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia. This is the first time a spacecraft launched from Virginia is heading toward the International Space Station. Above is the launch video, and we’ll have a full re-cap article coming soon! The live NASA TV feed is below. (end of update)

Orbital Sciences’ Cygnus spacecraft is set to become the second private spacecraft to launch to the International Space Station. Today’s historic launch from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia has a launch window from 10:50 AM to 11:30 AM EDT, with launch likely to occur at 0:58 a.m. EDT (1458 GMT) from Pad 0A at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport. You can watch it live here on NASA TV’s Ustream feed.

As of this writing, the Wallops range is currently red due to low cloud conditions and something called “distance focus over pressure,” according to the Orbital Sciences Twitter feed. However, they expect it to clear later in count, and the rocket is being fueled.

Also, if you live along the US east coast near the Virginia area, you may be able to see the launch for yourself! It won’t be as visible as the recent nighttime launch of the LADEE mission, but should still be visible to a wide area, if the skies are clear. Read our complete guide to how to view the launch here.

Live streaming video by Ustream

Here’s a timelapse of the Antares rocket heading out the the launchpad: