Дмитрий Котуков (simple_kot) wrote in mfu_canteen,
Дмитрий Котуков

Why did Antares crash?

On October 28th, 2014 in the USA the rocket Antares exploded at lineup. Antares should have delivered more than 2 tons of food, scientific experiments and up-dated satellite worth hundreds of millions of dollars to the ISS. In the deadstart was immediately accused the Russian engine manufacturer – JCS “Kuznetsov”. The results of the investigation which was made by the American side pointed to its political reasons – in the prejudice of the USA space industry.

On the first stage of the rocket Antares were installed 2 engines AJ26-62 – the modifications of the Soviet liquid rocket engine NK-33, which should have been used on the first stage of the lunar manned rocket and space complex.

The launch was realized by the private company “Orbital Sciences Corporation –ATK”. The first day after the disaster generated conflicting options among senior executives of the rocket companies, developers, journalists, politicians and a huge amount of space fans all over the world.

“Financial loss from this failure is about 200 million of dollars but it has a specific insurance, of course. The biggest damage is the loss of prepared experiments”-commented the situation Alexander Zheleznyakov, the academician of the Russian Academy of Cosmonautics named after K.E.Tsiolkovsky.

NASA representatives declared “…the investigation of the causes of explosion will take time from 6 month to a year.” At once, however, the information that the failure was caused by the defects in one of the first stage engines got leaked to the press.

In particular, the president of “OSC-ATK” David Thompson announced that the cause of the crash could has been in the incorrect modification of the Soviet engine NK-33 to model AJ26-62, which passed the official hot tests unconditionally.

In November 2014 NASA department of space operations created the independent investigation team for the purpose of independent investigation of the breakage. The company “Aerojet Rocketdyne” which at the same time modified the engine, established a similar commission. This commission was working closely with the developer of NK-33 – JCS “Kuznetsov” from Samara. As the result of the work, the joint memorandum was claimed, where the plausible reasons of motor failure were named. Experts found clear changes in the normal dynamics of the interaction between the engine and launch vehicle system.

Herewith, NASA commission failed to specify the one and only technical root cause of the fire and explosion. There were named 3 potential causes each of which alone or in combination with another could lead to failure.

Along these versions there is one about the dirt entry into the pump of the oxidizing engine. Experts found a lot of minor particles from the tank and pipes which were produced in Ukraine. The entry of these particles into the oxidizer passage is a serious and probable factor for the crash situation. At least this is proved by the huge Soviet and Russian experience in development powerful oxygen-kerosene engines, which was simply ignored by Americans.
Another probable factor of crash was suggested to be the entry of moisture, which caused icing in micro-gaps and pin holes. All this, however, is due to a change in the motor construction, made by Americans, which is fundamentally different from a similar Russian one.

More than that, the commission declared the absence of careful monitoring, qualification and acceptance testing and certification program to be the serious strategic blunder while constructing the rocket.

It looks like David Thompson meant it when he said about the “incorrect motor modification” soon after the rocket explosion. Then the reasonable question arises as to whether senior executives of “OSC-ATK”, NASA management and insurance companies do understand the risk policy.

It also seems like insurance companies don`t want to go into technical details and tend to believe the version of the defects of NK-33, which supposedly became the main cause of the deadstart. Interestingly enough, after the crash not a single American company suffered significant financial losses due to insurance payment. Apparently, the cooperative desire of American companies to receive compensations without undermining their authority prevailed over the need to find the real cause of explosion, which lies in violation of development technology.

It`s been a year and a half, but no one wants to find the truth, even insurance companies, which were forced to become sponsors of pyrotechnical show worth a few hundred million dollars. Such approach to investigate accidents makes it difficult to imagine the bright future of the USA space program.
It seems, that the answer to this question doesn`t trouble the original programmers of the American space mission.

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Tags: new member, question of the day, russian cousins, space 1999

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