An Orbital Sciences rocket carrying supplies and equipment to the International Space Station exploded in the skies above a NASA spaceport in Virginia six seconds after launch Tuesday night — a disaster that may have been foreseen by the company’s number one competitor.
Orbital Sciences is one of two private companies contracted by NASA to ferry supplies and other equipment to the ISS, the other being SpaceX — the private space company founded by Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk who, as Mashable recalls, had some critical thoughts about Orbital Sciences’ Antares rocket two years before in exploded at launch.
“One of our competitors, Orbital Sciences, has a contract to resupply the International Space Station, and their rocket honestly sounds like the punch line to a joke,” Musk told Wired in 2012. “It uses Russian rocket engines that were made in the ’60s. I don’t mean their design is from the ’60s — I mean they start with engines that were literally made in the ’60s and, like, packed away in Siberia somewhere.”
The engines Musk referred to are Aerojet Rocketdyne AJ-26 engines, which are actually modified and retrofitted Soviet-made NK-33 engines originally built in the late 60s and early 70s by the Moscow-based JSC Kuznetsov. The engines were designed to launch the N1 Russian rocket on lunar missions.
Aerojet Rocketdyne, a division of the American-based GenCorp Inc, “modernized a gimbal block for thrust vectoring capability, gimbaling feedlines, new wiring harnesses and electrical circuitry, electromechanical valve actuators and instrumentation” on the engines for use in the Antares, according to the company’s website.
The same engine exploded during a ground test at NASA’s Stennis Space Center in Mississippi earlier this May.
Musk expressed his sympathy for the company following news of the explosion Tuesday. (RELATED: Check Out These Eyewitness Videos Of Orbital Sciences’ Rocket Exploding At Launch [VIDEO])
Sorry to hear about the @OrbitalSciences launch. Hope they recover soon.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) October 28, 2014
SpaceX recently lost a rocket during a test flight in August after a problem was detected mid-flight, tripping onboard systems which automatically destroyed the vehicle.