A couple of nice rocket videos for you today. 😉 First off is yesterday’s CRS-2 Cygnus launch aboard the Antares rocket flown by Orbital Sciences. This is a very international vehicle, and thus fitting for the ISS; the first stage engines were built in Russia in the 1960s for N-1 and refurbished in the 90s by Aerojet in the US; the first stage tankage is by Yuzhnoye in Ukraine; first stage assembly and upper stage are by Orbital Sciences in the US. Cygnus too is international – the service module is a variant of Orbital’s STAR spacecraft bus with Dutch-built solar arrays, while the pressurized compartment is built by Thales Alenia in Turin, Italy, based off of their MPLM work. Cygnus will take a couple of days to catch up with the ISS now. Note: Orbital established a tradition with their first two flights of naming spacecraft after deceased astronauts who had worked for them. This one is no different: the SS Janice Voss. Voss completed five spaceflights (tying her for the female spaceflight record) prior to retiring from NASA and going to work for Orbital. She died of breast cancer a couple of years ago, and is commemorated on this flight.
And then today SpaceX launched their next commercial Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, delivering a set of spacecraft for Orbcomm. The first stage carried landing legs and again attempted a controlled splashdown; reportedly this phase of the mission was more successful, but the vehicle broke apart after impact. SpaceX intends to go over data to determine whether the splashdown broke it or whether it broke only after falling over onto the ocean. If it’s the latter, they may be ready to try for a land return as early as sometime this year.