This week saw the crash and burn of two commercial space ships; one manned, the other unmanned. Regardless of how commonplace spaceflight seems to have become it is still dangerous business. As Elon Musk quipped when a SpaceX test vehicle self-destructed (as intended) when something went haywire over the McGregor Texas test site, “Rockets are tricky“.
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The AJ26 engines—modified and tested in the U.S.—originally were designed for the massive Soviet rockets meant to take cosmonauts to the moon during the late 1960s.
The massive explosion of the Russian Moon rocket dashed the Russian bid for the Moon. Faulty AJ26 engines … the same used on the Antares booster … most likely caused the Russian Moon rocket explosion. [my comment]
In 2012, SpaceX’s billionaire founder and CEO, Elon Musk, called the Antares rocket “a punchline to a joke” because of the Russian engines. SpaceX, by contrast, makes its own rocket parts.
“I mean they start with engines that were literally made in the ’60s and, like, packed away in Siberia somewhere,” Musk said in an interview with Wired magazine.