Via NASA

Orion Spacecraft Completed, Launches in December

Via Lockheed MartinImage via Lockheed Martin

Personally I was starting to think this thing would never get built, but here it is sitting ready to be mounted on the Delta IV Heavy that will be carrying it into orbit (the test flight is currently scheduled for December 4th, weather permitting). With an apogee set for about 3600 miles, this will be the farthest from Earth a crew-capable spacecraft has been since the Apollo era, though this test flight will be unmanned and last only four and a half hours. More info can be found in the press release from NASA, which invited media to a pre-flight briefing at Kennedy Space Center on November 6th.

Header image is an artist’s rendering of the Orion with attached cryogenic propulsion stage from this nifty article about the ICPS stage of the in-development Space Launch System, which Orion is a major part of.

Initial Damage Assessment from Wallops

Aerial view of damaged launch pad, via NASA/Terry Zaperach

The initial assessment is a cursory look; it will take many more weeks to further understand and analyze the full extent of the effects of the event. A number of support buildings in the immediate area have broken windows and imploded doors. A sounding rocket launcher adjacent to the pad, and buildings nearest the pad, suffered the most severe damage.

At Pad 0A the initial assessment showed damage to the transporter erector launcher and lightning suppression rods, as well as debris around the pad.

The article (linked below) from there goes into detail on environmental impacts, though all indications so far are that the entirety of the damage is limited to the immediate vicinity of the Launch Pad. State and Federal agencies will continue to monitor the surrounding areas for ecological impacts but so far things are looking good.

via NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility Completes Initial Assessment after Orbital Launch Mishap | NASA.

ADDITION:
Check out this great video from Scott Manley on the history of Orbital Sciences and the engine used on the Antares rocket.

Antares

Orbital Sciences Antares Launch

This post was supposed to be my first video recorded in person. I had a nice setup by the river behind my apartment, with a clear view out to the horizon as the 6:22PM EDT launch window approached. The window came and went, and there was nothing. I thought I saw some faint flashes, but began to lose hope, thinking it had gone up entirely behind the only cloud in the sky. The video I have, which I’ll not be uploading, ends with me checking twitter and learning that the Antares had detonated six seconds into the launch. So, in lieu of a video, here’s my own quick analysis of the Orbital/NASA/Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport press conference from earlier this evening along with the video that Brad Panovich very quickly uploaded to youtube of the launch failure on NASAtv:

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