NASA Drops Spectacular Photos of Antares Rocket Explosion on Flickr

The yearlong investigation points to problems in the turbopump, but still can't pin down the explosion's cause.

NASA’s Flickr albums just got a bit more explosive, adding a few hi-res images of last October’s Antares rocket as it suffered a “catastrophic anomaly.”

What NASA describes as anomalous, you and I would probably describe in a string of all-caps profanities. At its most anomalous moment, at least:

As the Antares mission carried only scientific equipment and supplies for the International Space Station, no one was on the rocket, nor were injuries reported from the massive fireball’s debris.

NASA’s year-long independent investigation into why the rocket exploded wasn’t able to come up with a definitive single conclusion. The review team had a few ideas, specifically involving the rocket’s turbopump:

  • poor design of the hydraulic balance assembly in the turbopump
  • evidence of foreign objects in the turbopump
  • shoddy turbopump manufacturing

Whatever the cause, parts that weren’t supposed to move rubbed against the mobile bits in the turbopump, leading to ignition and ultimately explosion.

In other space news, if you want to be a civilian astronaut, NASA is taking applications.

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