Sunday, 3 August 2008


From The Free Dictionary:

n. pl. a·nom·a·lies
1. Deviation or departure from the normal or common order, form, or rule.
2. One that is peculiar, irregular, abnormal, or difficult to classify: "Both men are anomalies: they have . . . likable personalities but each has made his reputation as a heavy" David Pauly.
3. Astronomy The angular deviation, as observed from the sun, of a planet from its perihelion.
It has a special meaning in Rocket Science though. It means that something has gone wrong, is out of tolerance, is not according to plan. Or all too often, Gone Wrong. It is the word you most don't want to hear at a launch.

That was (past tense) the third attempt at launching the Falcon 1, a commercial space venture of some promise. The first stage worked, though there are some worrying minor rotations and corrections. But it looks like the second stage didn't separate, with.... an anomaly as the result.

Back to the old drawing board. But first, an extensive forensic analysis of the telemetry, to diagnose the cause. Hopefully something simple and easy to fix.

My sympathies to the Falcon team, but also to the team that built the payload.
From Space.Com:

The rocket was expected to deploy its cargo, the small, cube-shaped FalconSat-2 satellite built by U.S. Air Force Academy, about 10 minutes after launch. The $800,000 satellite was designed to measure the effects of space plasma on communication and global positioning satellites. The mission carried a $6.7 million price tag covered by the U.S. Air Force and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA).

"We were of course very disappointed," U.S. Air Force Academy spokesperson John van Winkle told, adding that cadets packed the FalconSat-2 flight control room to capacity to watch the attempted launch. "We were so excited to see it finally lift off."
What is especially heartbreaking is that this is "the little satellite that could". It miraculously escaped intact (mostly) from a previous launch failure in 2005. From Wikipedia
FalconSAT-2 - Significantly damaged when Falcon 1 launch vehicle failed seconds after launch. Despite the loss of the launch vehicle, the satellite landed, mostly intact in a support building for the launch vehicle. It was originally scheduled for launch on STS-114 with the Space Shuttle Atlantis in January 2003. Its payload was the MESA instrument (Miniaturized electrostatic Analyzer), which would have been used to sample plasma in the upper atmosphere. The data would have been used to correlate the effect of ionospheric plasma on trans-ionospheric radio communications.
More on the history of FalconSat-2 in this Word document.

1 comment:

SnoopyTheGoon said...

Well, as any person who ever soldered two pieces of wire together could easily tell, shit happens.

There always is the next time.