On Tuesday October 28, 2014, an Orbital ATK Antares rocket experienced a failure just seconds into its launch in Virginia. The rocket subsequently crashed back to Earth in a ball of flame and exploded, providing quite the spectacle at the time.
Now, NASA has released a host of new high-resolution photos from the event. They were posted on the agency’s Flickr account, following the release of a report into the accident last week. The photos showcase the moment the Antares rocket went out in a catastrophic blaze of glory.
The report last week found that an explosion in a liquid oxygen turbopump on one of the two main AJ-26 engines was responsible for the failure, causing the rocket to lose thrust and crash back to Earth. The cause of the engine failure is not clear, although a design flaw or debris are likely culprits.
The rocket was unmanned, but it had been carrying a Cygnus cargo spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS), among other secondary payloads. This would have been the third flight of the Cygnus family to the ISS.
Since the accident Orbital has kept its fleet of Antares rockets grounded while the investigation into the error continues, but Cygnus is set to fly again on an Atlas V rocket next month on December 3. The Antares rocket is not due to fly again until March 2016.
While the images are spectacular, they also serve as a reminder that spaceflight can be difficult, although considering this was just one of about 90 successful launches last year, such a failure is an anomaly rather than the norm. And after all, it is rocket science.
More images are available on NASA’s Flickr page.
All images courtesy of NASA/Joel Kowsky (Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0.)