In Brief

Orbital Sciences Forms Investigation Team for Antares Rocket Explosion

This image shows the aftermath of the Antares rocket explosion, which took place on Oct. 28, 2014. The photo was taken from the air on Oct. 29.
This image shows the aftermath of the Antares rocket explosion, which took place on Oct. 28, 2014. The photo was taken from the air on Oct. 29. (Image credit: NASA/Terry Zaperach)

Orbital Sciences Corp. has assembled an investigation team to examine exactly what went wrong when the private spaceflight company's Antares rocket exploded shortly after liftoff on Oct. 28.

Officials with NASA, the Federal Aviation Administration and Orbital Sciences have been working toward understanding what caused the massive failure of the rocket, but they have not found the root cause of the accident yet. The rocket mishap took place on a launch pad at NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Wallops Island, Virginia. The Antares was carrying an unmanned Cygnus spacecraft loaded down with supplies for the International Space Station at the time of the explosion. Orbital Sciences holds a contract with NASA to fly these robotic resupply missions to the orbiting outpost.

The Accident Investigation Board (IAB) will first work on putting together the proper timeline of events during the launch, according to Orbital. "Due to the large amount of data available, the AIB is able to work with a rich source of information about the launch," Orbital officials said in an update Wednesday (Nov. 3). "One of the initial tasks for the AIB is to reconcile the data from multiple sources, a process that is now underway, to help create the launch sequence timeline." [Read more news about the Antares explosion]

David Steffy, the Chief Engineer of Orbital’s Advanced Programs Group, has been chosen as the chairman of the Accident Investigation Board. Other members of the board are:

  • David Swanson, Senior Director of Safety and Mission Assurance for Orbital’s Technical Operations organization
  • Wayne Hale, Director of Human Spaceflight, Special Aerospace Services
  • David Cooper, member of Orbital’s Independent Readiness Review Team for the company’s Launch Systems Group
  • Eric Wood, Director of Propulsion Engineering for Orbital’s Launch Systems Group
  • Tom Costello, Launch Vehicle Assessment Manager in the International Space Station Program at NASA’s Johnson Space Center
  • Matt Lacey, Senior Vehicle Systems Engineer for NASA’s Launch Services Program

The Federal Aviation Administration's oversight team for the investigation includes Michael Kelly, Chief Engineer for the FAA Office of Commercial Space Transportation and Marcus Ward, Mishap Response Coordinator for the same office.

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Miriam Kramer
Staff Writer

Miriam Kramer joined as a Staff Writer in December 2012. Since then, she has floated in weightlessness on a zero-gravity flight, felt the pull of 4-Gs in a trainer aircraft and watched rockets soar into space from Florida and Virginia. She also served as's lead space entertainment reporter, and enjoys all aspects of space news, astronomy and commercial spaceflight.  Miriam has also presented space stories during live interviews with Fox News and other TV and radio outlets. She originally hails from Knoxville, Tennessee where she and her family would take trips to dark spots on the outskirts of town to watch meteor showers every year. She loves to travel and one day hopes to see the northern lights in person. Miriam is currently a space reporter with Axios, writing the Axios Space newsletter. You can follow Miriam on Twitter.