Friday, October 31, 2014

Doomed Antares Rocket Powered by Refurbished Soviet Engines

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Antares Rocket Explodes Seconds After Launch
The Orbital Sciences Corporation Antares rocket, with the Cygnus spacecraft onboard suffers a catastrophic anomaly moments after launch from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport Pad 0A, Tuesday, Oct. 28, 2014, at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

By Mike Wall

      The private American rocket that exploded shortly after liftoff Tuesday evening (Oct. 28) was powered partly by an engine built to get cosmonauts to the moon in the 1960s.

Orbital Sciences Corp.'s two-stage Antares rocket crashed in a fiery heap just seconds after launching from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia on Tuesday, ending an attempted cargo run to the International Space Station just seconds after it began.

Antares' first stage uses two AJ26 engines, which are refurbished variants of the NK-33 built by the Soviet Union for its ill-fated N-1 moon rocket during the height of the space race. While it's unclear at the moment whether or not the AJ26 played any role in Tuesday's mishap, the engines' age and provenance has already stirred debate, as well as a bit of criticism. . . .

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