Big Setbacks In the Field of Commercial Spaceflight

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Antares Rocket Bound for Space Station Explodes on Launch. NASA 2014.

Noah S.

The commercial spaceflight industry was rocked by a pair of explosions a couple of weeks ago. These represent what could be up to two years of setbacks in the field. The Antares rocket self-destructed just six seconds after its launch, when what NASA called a “major anomaly” occurred. The rocket was destroyed on launch to avoid further damage to the surrounding area and personnel. The rocket was an unmanned supply drop intended for the International Space Station (ISS). Russia has reached out to the US by offering to send up an  alternate resupply for the American astronauts through a Russian Soyuz capsule. While this offer is an example of excellence from our international partners in the low earth orbit business it does represent a larger trend of increasing dependence on foreign space flight. In order to decrease our dependence on the Russian Soyuz capsules, NASA has invested in US commercial spaceflight (See my other article) but there have been setbacks in that field recently as well.

Virgin Galactic had a morbid week; SpaceShipTwo, Virgin Galactic’s second generation space plane, crashed during a test two weeks ago. The crash was fatal to one of the pilots and the other suffered extensive injuries. While the final crash reports have not yet been completed, it is believed the crash occurred after the plane had detached from its Whiteknight drop plane and fired up its engine. The company had planned to use the rocket plane as early as a year from now to bring wealthy clients on brief low earth orbital trip. The next SpaceShipTwo will take another two years to build and will have to grow through even more rigorous testing than any of the previous versions. While this is a steep price to pay for the burgeoning industry, it is a price that space pioneers such as Richard Branson are willing to pay.

Eng, James, Devin Coldewey, and Alan Boyle. “Antares Rocket Bound for Space Station Explodes on Launch – NBC News.” NBC News JAMES ENG, DEVIN COLDEWEY AND ALAN BOYLE. NBC News, 26 Oct. 2014. Web. 6 Nov. 2014. <http://www.nbcnews.com/science/space/antares-rocket-bound-space-station-explodes-launch-n235996>.

“Russia Offers the US Help with Space Station after Rocket Explodes.” Raw Story. Raw Story, 1 Nov. 2014. Web. 6 Nov. 2014. <http://www.rawstory.com/rs/2014/10/russia-offers-the-us-help-with-space-station-after-rocket-explodes/>.

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