Orbital ATK Completing Final Report on Antares Failure

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WASHINGTON — Orbital ATK is wrapping up the final report into last October’s Antares launch failure for delivery to the Federal Aviation Administration, but has not indicated when the report will be released to the public.

At a meeting of the NASA Advisory Council at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory July 29, NASA Administrator Charles Bolden said he believed Orbital ATK “is about ready” to deliver its report on the Oct. 28 launch failure to the FAA’s Office of Commercial Space Transportation. Orbital had led the investigation into the FAA-licensed launch of a Cygnus cargo spacecraft intended to resupply the International Space Station.

“We feel pretty confident in the results” of that investigation, Bolden said, without going into detail about what the report concluded. “We think that it was very thorough and really appreciate the conclusions that were found.”

Orbital ATK spokeswoman Jennifer Bowman confirmed July 30 that the company’s accident investigation board “is nearing the end of its work,” but declined to comment on its findings or give specific details about the status of the investigation.

The investigation has focused on the failure of one of two AJ-26 engines, provided by Aerojet Rocketdyne, in the first stage of the Antares seconds after liftoff from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport in Virginia. Orbital said in the weeks after the accident that the engine’s turbopump failed.

Speaking at the 31st Space Symposium in Colorado Springs, Colorado, April 14, Ron Grabe, then-president of Orbital ATK’s Flight Systems Group, said the failed turbopump suffered “excessive bearing wear.” He did not disclose what caused that wear, and said then that the report would be delivered to the FAA “within days.”