Antares Rocket Explodes with 26 Planet Labs Satellites Lost

by | Nov 3, 2014


Twenty six of Planet Labs' Dove Earth observation satellites were among the cargo lost when an Antares rocket exploded shortly after liftoff on Oct. 28, 2014.

An Orbital Sciences Antares rocket lifted off to start its third resupply mission to the International Space Station but suffered a catastrophic anomaly shortly after liftoff on Oct. 28, 2014. The spectacular explosion left little of the craft or cargo. Twenty-six Planet Labs Earth observation satellites, known as Doves, were among the items lost.

The flight safety team hit the kill switch, resulting in the launchpad explosion, after seeing problems arise with the rocket. The controlled explosion is the preferred outcome, rather than an erratic landing in the densely populated areas surrounding NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in coastal Virginia. No injuries were reported.

The Orbital Sciences team secured  the site and data, including all telemetry from the Antares launch vehicle and Cygnus spacecraft. Before launch the Orbital team wasn't tracking any issues.

In a statement on its website, Planet Labs simply stated, Space is hard. The company's strategy is to launch fleets of satellites on multiple different launch vehicles from multiple vendors as a means to mitigate this fact. The company has launched 71 doves in 18 months on six launch vehicles and is building more to replace those that were lost.

Following is a video of the rocket explosion captured from a small aircraft flying near the launch site.


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