The GOMX-2 and RACE CubeSats were among more than 2 dozen satellites that were lost after an unmanned Orbital Space Sciences (OSC) Antares 130 vehicle exploded spectacularly shortly after launch at 2222 UTC on Tuesday, October 28, from the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on Wallops Island on Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Both satellite packages carried payloads that operated on Amateur Radio frequencies. The Antares is a new medium-class launch vehicle developed by OSC. The rocket exploded about 6 seconds after launch, sending a huge ball of fire hurtling toward the ground, which set a massive fire at the NASA launch site.
“A mishap has occurred at pad 0A,” a launch conductor said during the live broadcast on NASA TV. “There is no indication there is personnel in danger, although we do have significant property damage and significant vehicle damage.”
The 2U GMX-2 CubeSat was intended to test a de-orbit system designed by Aalborg University in Denmark. Karl Klaus Laursen, OZ2KK, is listed as the “responsible operator” on International Amateur Radio Union frequency coordination documents. The Amateur Radio payload proposed using a 9.6 k MSK data downlink on 437.250 MHz. Also on board was an optical communications experiment from the National University of Singapore. The mission also hoped to flight qualify a new high-speed UHF transceiver and SDR receiver built by an Aalborg University team.
The Radiometer Atmospheric Cubesat Experiment (RACE) CubeSat was a joint project between The Texas Spacecraft Laboratory (TSL) at the University of Texas-Austin and NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL). It carried a 183 GHz radiometer, a new science instrument designed by JPL. The primary objective of the RACE mission was to collect atmospheric water vapor measurements. The spacecraft was equipped to transmit using GMSK at 38.4 k and CW telemetry on a downlink frequency of 437.525MHz, as coordinated with the IARU. TSL’s Edgar Glenn Lightsey, KE5DDG, was listed in the IARU coordination documents as the responsible operator.
The Antares 130 launcher was on a resupply mission, carrying some 5000 pounds of cargo to the International Space Station. GOMX-2 and the other satellites onboard the rocket were to be launched into orbit from the International Space Station.
The Antares 130 also was carrying the Flock-1d array of 26 satellites as well as Arkyd-3, Cygnus CRS-3, and the RACE CubeSat.