NASA has released stunning photos of the catastrophic failure of Orbital Science Corporation’s Antares rocket shortly after liftoff at 6:22 p.m. on Oct. 28, 2014 from Pad 0A of the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport at NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.
Just over 15 seconds into flight, an explosion in the Antares Main Engine System occurred, causing the vehicle to lose thrust and fall back toward the ground. Just prior to Antares impacting the ground, range safety personnel issued a destruct command to the Flight Termination System to minimize the potential damage from the expected ground impact and ensuing explosion of the vehicle.
The launch vehicle impacted near the launch pad resulting in loss of the vehicle and cargo. Although there was damage to the launch pad and adjacent facilities and buildings, there were no injuries to people.
A later investigation determined that the cause of the explosion on launch was loss of rotor radial positioning resulting in contact and frictional rubbing between rotating and stationary components within the Engine Liquid Oxygen (LO2) turbopump Hydraulic Balance Assembly (HBA) seal package. This frictional rubbing led to ignition and fire involving LO2 within the turbopump HBA.