Space

November 30, 2012

Possible cause for Taurus payload fairing shroud failure

Raphael Jaffe
staff writer

Continued analysis of the payload fairing failure to split and detach from the Orbital Taurus XL launch vehicle has fingered the possible cause.

The heat-treated frangible rail designed to fracture when a pyrotechnic charge is detonated post-launch to shed the rocketís payload-fairing shroud has problems. There are potentially some extrusion problems with the way that material is extruded and the way it is heat treated. It is not uniform along the entire length of the rail.

William Gerstenmaier, associate administrator for NASAís Human Spaceflight and Operations Directorate, says NASA and Orbital investigative teams have traced the problem.

He spoke to the NASA Advisory Councilís human exploration and operations committee in Washington Nov. 15.

ìWe had thought maybe the charge holder had slumped or moved down and that didnít allow the frangible rail to fracture properly,î but in now seems to be a manufacturing problem with the rail.

NASA lost its Orbiting Carbon Observatory in 2009 and its Glory climate-monitor in 2011, both on launches of the Taurus XL, when the vehicleís payload shroud failed to open after separating from the rocket.

Gerstenmaier says both Orbital and NASA investigation teams filed accident investigation reports with NASA in September and December 2011, respectively, both of which failed to determine the root cause of a March 4, 2011, launch failure aboard the Taurus XL that led to the loss of Glory.

Since then, NASA terminated its Taurus XL launch service task order for a re-launch of an identical Orbital Sciences-built OCO spacecraft, though the investigative teams have continued to explore possible root causes of the Glory launch failure. He said the teams have discovered a manufacturing problem ìthat may be more generic than just to the Taurus,î and that while the investigation into this new line of inquiry is preliminary, the findings and mitigation efforts may affect not only the Taurus XL, but other Orbital launch vehicles as well, including the companyís Pegasus, Minotaur and Antares launchers.

Gerstenmaier said the team ìwent out and essentially looked in the scrap bin at some fairings, and we actually investigated some other spacecraft that had some rails.î He says investigators kept digging and, ìwhen they did that, they started discovering some things that didnít look quite right.

Orbital spokesman Barron Beneski says the companyís Antares, Pegasus and Minotaur rockets all fly versions of the frangible joint fairing separation system. These rails are located along the seam between the two halves of Orbitalís clamshell-shaped fairing, as well as at the base of the fairing that connects to the launch vehicle itself.

ìThese come apart to jettison the protective nose cone once the rocket is out of Earthís atmosphere,î Beneski says. ìWe have done a great deal of work on this system since the Taurus XL Glory mission failure to ensure the flight worthiness of the system for upcoming missions, including the Antares test flight.î




All of this week's top headlines to your email every Friday.


 
 

 

NASA partners punctuate summer with spacecraft development advances

Spacecraft and rocket development is on pace this summer for NASA’s aerospace industry partners for the agency’s Commercial Crew Program as they progress through systems testing, review boards and quarterly sessions under their† Space Act Agreements with the agency. NASA engineers and specialists continue their review of the progress as the agency and partners move...
 
 

NASA seeks proposals for commercial Mars data relay satellites

NASA has issued a Request for Information to investigate the possibility of using commercial Mars-orbiting satellites to provide telecommunications capabilities for future robotic missions to the Red Planet. We are looking to broaden participation in the exploration of Mars to include new models for government and commercial partnerships, said John Grunsfeld, associate administrator of NASAR...
 
 
NASA photograph

NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory celebrates 15th anniversary

NASA photograph To celebrate the 15th anniversary of NASA’s Chandra X-ray Observatory, four new images of supernova remnants are being released. These spectacular cosmic vistas are the glowing debris fields that were crea...
 

 
NASA photograph

NASA begins engine test project for space launch system rocket

NASA photograph RS-25 rocket engine No. 0525 is positioned onto the A-1 Test Stand at NASAís Stennis Space Center in Mississippi preparation for a series of developmental tests. Engineers have taken a crucial step in preparing...
 
 

SSL selected to study asteroid retrieval for NASA

Space Systems/Loral, a leading provider of commercial satellites, announced July 18 that it was one of the companies selected by NASA to study system concepts and key technologies for NASA’s Asteroid Redirect Mission, which is expected to be a key part of the agency’s path to sending humans to Mars. SSL will conduct two studies;...
 
 
NASA image

NASA turns over next-gen air traffic management tool to FAA

NASA image As seen in this image, Terminal Sequencing and Spacing technology enables air traffic controllers to better manage the spacing between aircraft as they save both time and fuel and reducing emissions, flying more effi...
 




0 Comments


Be the first to comment!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>