Space exploration was not an easy task since its inception. The entire world’s best scientists and engineers work on space projects. But mistakes happen and they ended up as failures. I thought it is time to learn about mistakes done in space attempts. Some of them are fatal and should never happen again.

Failed first stage engine of Antares launch

Orbital Sciences Corporation and Yuzhnoye Design Bureau created Antares expendable launch system as a part of NASA’s COTS and CRS programs. It was capable of carrying payloads heavier than 8,000 kg. Most of their launches were successes. But failure happened in the 5th launch.

It was October 28, 2014. Mission failed and destroyed the vehicle and the payload. It is the only failed launch of Antares. They found the mistake that caused this catastrophic event. They were the first stage engines. After replacing failed first stage engines, Antares did many successful launches. The current conflict between Ukraine and Russia makes us uncertain about the future of the system.

The maiden launch of Ariane 5

On the 4th of July, 1996 the maiden launch of Ariana 5 failed. Development and operations of Ariane 5 carried by Arianespace. It is supposed to use in European Space Agency missions.

The incident happens 40 seconds after launch. The rocket was at 3700m above ground at that movement. Something went wrong and the rocket exploded and was destroyed by the self-destruction system. The full report of what happened to the rocket was released after.

They found a simultaneous failure of the two inertial reference systems. Rupture of the electrical links between the solid boosters and the core stage triggered self-destruction. If it didn’t self-destruct, there could be casualties.

The rocket was able to deliver payloads into geostationary transfer orbit or low Earth orbit for some time after the incident.

The terrible VSS enterprise crash

VSS enterprise Spaceship Two VSS enterprise was an effort to start commercial suborbital space tours by Virgin Galactic. It went on a flight train on 31st October 2014 with pilot Mike Alsbury and co-pilot Pete Siebold. An unfortunate incident happened when they were plying.

It crashed into the Mojave Desert. Pilot Pete was able to jump before the crash, but he was seriously injured. Mike on the other hand had no chance. Pilot Alsbury had unlocked the spaceship’s feather ahead of time during powered ascent. It is one of the mistakes done in space attempts that lead to a catastrophe.

FAA AST was criticized for allowing test flights despite proper safety analysis.

The destruction of Juno II

Juno II is a space launch vehicle made in America. It used to launch several satellites to orbit and outer space between the 1950s and early 1960. Juno II recorded many failed missions. But the most dramatic failure happened on 16 July 1959.

It was on a mission to launch an Explorer satellite. After a few instances from launch the space launch vehicle lost control. The range safety officer got no choice but to remotely destroy it. Teams trace back and find what caused this dramatic failure.

Out of all space attempts, mistakes of this one were in this electric circuit. The power inverter cut off power to the guidance system because of a short between two diodes. It happened at the liftoff and Juno flipped onto the side with the full stopped engine.

The death of Michael J. Adams

X-15 research aircraft was made by North American Aviation. It flew under a joint program between USFA and NASA. It did test flights in 1959. X-15 was capable of achieving Mach 4, 5, and 6 speeds.

Born on 5th May 1930, Michael James Adam is an aviator and an aeronautical engineer. He was lucky or unlucky to be one of twelve pilots who flew the X-15.

After a few successful attempts, the X-15 flew its most tragic flight on 15 November 1967. At 85,000 feet altitude, Michael was distracted by an electrical disturbance. However, he was able to reach over 200,000 feet altitudes. He was in a Mach 5 spin. The X-15 doesn’t have a system to escape from spins. Michael break the spin 118,000 feet but then came a technical error.

It began a limit-cycle oscillation. It did the death of Mike Adams and the destruction of X-15-3.

Falcon 9 explosion

Mistakes done in space attempts are not limited to old times. SpaceX is a company led by Elon Musk, the richest man in the world. SpaceX is doing commercial flights and government contracts.

Falcon 9 rocket is an incredible creation by SpaceX. It is one of the most used launch vehicles. It has done 160 total launches, 120 landings, and 99 total refights. This reusable two-stage vehicle can send people and payloads to space.

It was 9th September 2016, not a long ago. Falcon 9 is ready to launch a 200 million dollars Facebook satellite into orbit. Unfortunately, it exploded destroying the satellite. FAA, Air Force (US), and NASA conducted the investigation. A ruptured pressure vessel containing cold helium was the cause of the failure.

Mars probe lost due to a conversion error

Did you know NASA lost a Mars probe because of a mistake in unit conversion? Nasa wanted to launch a $125-million worth Mass climate orbiter. A navigation team at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory worked with the metric system (meters and millimeters). Lockheed Martin Astronautics in Denver built the spacecraft and provided crucial information in imperial system units (feet and pounds).

A mistake was made while converting pound-second to newton-second. A simple math error destroyed a million-dollar mass probe when entering its initial orbit around mars.

The Metric system is the worldwide accepted measurement system but the USA still uses the imperial system. This accident shows us why measurements and conversion between systems should do carefully.

The explosion of Proton M

Proton M is a Russian expandable heavy lift vehicle. Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center made it. Proton M launched first on 7 April 2001. Launches took place at Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan.

It was 01 July 2013. Proton M was on a mission to launch three onboard navigation satellites into space. They are worth 200 million dollars. The vehicle exploded because of a tiny mistake that they had taken action to prevent. Some technicians placed angular velocity sensors upside down even though there was an arrow to indicate the correct side.

The rocket was unmanned and no locals were harmed in the event. 17-story boosters spilled 600 tons of highly toxic heptyl, amyl, and kerosene fuel when being destroyed. Minor damages to buildings around launch areas. Luckily, launchpads survived.

The tragic failure of Apollo 1

Apollo missions walked men on the moon. But it is not an overnight success. They have to go through many losses. Even in the very beginning. NASA planned to launch it on 27th February 1967. But an unfortunate tragedy happened during a launch pad test. A flash fire occurred in command module 012. The vehicle was just ready for the first piloted flight.

Gus Grissom, Edward H. White, and Roger B. Chaffee joined the history. A comprehensive investigation was conducted by Dr. Floyd L. Thompson. The wiring and plumbing of the spacecraft were the problems. Electricity and combustible and corrosive coolant could be the cause of ignition. The Apollo program continued after with all 14 missions on the list.

Vostok-2M disaster

Soviet Union hid the Vostok-2M rocket explosion for a long time. It was an expendable carrier rocket that can inject lightweight payloads into higher sun-synchronous orbits. Workers were fueling the Vostok-2 when it happened on 18 March 1980.

Someone done one of the worst mistakes in space attempts. He soldered a filter of hydrogen peroxide tan with lead. But it is supposed to do with tin. Hydrogen peroxide breaks down because of a small explosion and melted the solder. Pieces fall into hydrogen peroxide storage and ignite a fire eventually causing an explosion.

Vostok-2M was able to kill many young soldiers while it was on the launch pad. The Soviet Union kept all of this a secret for a long time.

Destruction of Intelsat-708

This accident happened in China. Intelsat got this satellite built by SSL for telecommunication purposes. Long March 3B, a Chinese launch vehicle that was introduced in 1996. It did several successful missions before taking the responsibility to inject the satellite into space.

On 14 February 1996, the launch vehicle had a failure and struck a nearby vehicle. The Chinese government officially admit six deaths of locals. But chances are more than 20 deaths. Investigators found a failure in the guidance system. This fueled political controversies since this included China.

More Atlas problems

Atlas centaur is an American orbital launch vehicle. It faced a terrible failure on 8 May 1962. There were many hypotheses about the cause of the failure at first. But later determined it was an insulation panel that ripped the spacecraft off. LH2 overheated and surge the tank pressure.

Atlas century retired in 1965. It was on missions for almost 3 years after the tragedy. The vehicle has a 136,124 kg mass and 33m height. Its 1,704.82 thrust is enough to carry a 1,700kg payload. It costs 70.3 million in 1994 dollars for launch.

Atlas 1967, Atlas centaur, and Atlas centaur 5 also had some failed launches in the past. Atlas centaur 5 was destroyed on the launchpad. So much for the same name.

The great Nedelin disaster

A missile exploded in Southern Kazakhstan on 24 October 1960 killing an unknown number of people. But the world only heard some rumors about the accident thanks to the Soviet Union’s strict public policies. Journalists recognized it as the greatest disaster in space history.

The Baikonur Cosmodrome is a spaceport located in southern Kazakhstan. Russia is controlling the spaceport today. The cause of the explosion was a short circuit. Second stage engine caught on fire causing first-stage fuel tanks to explode. Many workers died including Chief Marshal of Artillery Mitrofan Ivanovich Nedelin.

We could find different estimations of how many people were killed that day in the Baikonur test range. Amounts vary between 100 and 300. The catastrophe was named the Nedelin disaster after the Chief marshal of Artillery.

Soyuz 11 failure after success

Soyuz 11 is another failure of Russia. But they achieved great success in this mission. Georgy Dobrovosky, Vladislav Volkov, and Viktor Patsayev had the opportunity to be the first crews to dock the world’s first space station. But they could not celebrate it on the land.

Soyuz 11 docked the space station on 7 June 1971 and departed on 29 June 1971. Cabin pressure was lost due to a pressure release valve malfunction. Astronauts didn’t where pressure suits at that time. If they did three space heroes could survive.

The capsule landed on earth with the help of pursuits. It was a historic entry. But Happy faces turned sad after they opened the capsule. All three men were dead.

Space Shuttle Challenger catastrophe

United State space program faced its first fatal accident on 28 January 1986. Space Shuttle Challenger was an orbiter. It had nine flights before this accident. This time Challenger has to bring seven crew members and a communication satellite into earth’s orbit. The crew was appointed to study Halley’s Comet.

Two redundant O-ring seals in a joint in the Space Shuttle’s right solid rocket booster failed. It was only 73 seconds since the launch and the spacecraft broke apart. American teacher Sharon Christa McAuliffe could be the first teacher to go into space if this did not happen.

Succes come after many faliures. We learn from mistakes and be sure they never happen again. Respect all those who died during space attempts. They contribute a lot to the achievement of space exploration and all the benefits we humans got from it. Our curiosity has no limit. Space attempts will continue further. Deep into the dark universe, planets, and stars. twin We hope for fatal mistakes in space attempts never happen in the future.

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