Starliner Launches Successfully, but Two of its Thrusters Failed

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner crew ship approaches the International Space Station above the south Pacific on May 20, 2022. Credit: NASA

Last week, Boeing’s next-generation CST-100 Starliner took off from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral, reached orbit, and docked with the International Space Station (ISS). Designated Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2), this uncrewed test flight successfully validated the reusable space capsule for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). This program, a public-private partnership between NASA and commercial launch providers (SpaceX and Boeing), aims to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective payload and crew transportation to the ISS from American soil.

The mission came with its share of hiccups, which consisted of two of the spacecraft’s thrusters shutting off prematurely during orbital maneuvers. Nevertheless, this successful test flight was a welcome relief after three years of delays, checks, and corrective actions that followed the first failed attempt (OFT-1). After six days of being docked with the ISS, the spacecraft is scheduled to undock tomorrow autonomously (Wednesday, May 25th) and land at the White Sands Space Harbor at the U.S. Army’s White Sands Missile Range (WSMR) in New Mexico.

Continue reading “Starliner Launches Successfully, but Two of its Thrusters Failed”

Boeing Starliner Launch Scrubbed. No Idea When it Might fly

With all the news recently about relatively young rocket companies successfully flinging their founders and some actual astronauts into space, it might be surprising that the rocket company with the most experience of all still hasn’t gotten its flagship new rocket off the ground with people yet.  And after yet another delay, there is now no firm date for the launch of Boeing’s Starliner.

Continue reading “Boeing Starliner Launch Scrubbed. No Idea When it Might fly”

Russia’s new Module Kicks the Station out of Position, Causes a Delay for Starliner

An artist's illustration of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft in orbit. Credit: Boeing

On July 28th, the International Space Station (ISS) suffered a mishap after a new Russian module (named Nauka) fired its thrusters just hours after arriving. As a result, the entire station was temporarily pushed out of position, forcibly delaying the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission. This would have been Boeing’s CT-100 Starliner’s second attempt to rendezvous with the ISS as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP).

The ISS managed to correct its orbit shortly thereafter, while the OFT-2 launch was delayed until the next available opportunity (Wednesday, Aug. 4th). Unfortunately, the mission was delayed again due to an issue with one of the valves on the spacecraft’s propulsion system. This prompted the ground crews to move the Starliner and Atlas V launch vehicle back into Vertical Integration Facility (VIF), so they can look for the source of the problem more closely.

Continue reading “Russia’s new Module Kicks the Station out of Position, Causes a Delay for Starliner”

NASA has a Pretty Big Checklist for Boeing to Fix on Starliner

An artist's illustration of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft in orbit. Credit: Boeing

In 2014, NASA contracted two major aerospace companies (Boeing and SpaceX) to help them restore domestic launch capability to the United States. As part of the Commercial Crew Program (CCE), Boeing and SpaceX developed the CST-100 Starliner the Crew Dragon spacecraft, respectively. But whereas the Crew Dragon finished testing and even carried astronauts to the ISS, the Starliner met with some problems.

During its first uncrewed test flight – Orbital Flight Test-1 (OFT-1) – in December 2019, the Starliner experienced some failures that prevented it from docking with the ISS. After a thorough investigation, the joint NASA-Boeing Independent Review team has completed its final assessment and identified 80 areas where corrections need to be made before the Starliner can conduct another orbital flight test.

Continue reading “NASA has a Pretty Big Checklist for Boeing to Fix on Starliner”

NASA tells Boeing to Make 61 Corrective Actions to Starliner Before the Program can Continue

Credit: NASA

With the retirement of the Space Shuttle in 2011, NASA has become dependent on its Russian counterparts to send and return astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). Hoping to restore domestic launch capability to American soil, NASA has contracted with aerospace developers like SpaceX and Boeing to develop crew-capable spacecraft, as part of their Commercial Crew Program (CCP).

After years of development, Boeing managed to get their CST-100 Starliner ready for its first uncrewed test flight on December 20th, 2019. Unfortunately, a hiccup occurred during the mission that prevented the spacecraft docking with the ISS. After an independent review of the mission, NASA and Boeing have determined that 61 corrective actions need to be taken before the Starliner can fly again.

Continue reading “NASA tells Boeing to Make 61 Corrective Actions to Starliner Before the Program can Continue”

A Television Satellite Might be About to Explode

Artist's impression of a satellite exploding. Credit: ESA

On Friday (Jan. 19th), authorities at the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that they had granted permission to cable tv provider DirecTV to begin the process of deorbiting their Spaceway-1 (F1) satellite. This was necessary ever since DirecTV detected a “major anomaly” with the satellite’s batteries which increased the risk of an explosion if its orbit remained unchanged.

Continue reading “A Television Satellite Might be About to Explode”

Finally! We get to See a View From Inside Boeing’s Starliner During its First Flight

Boeing's Stariner atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. Credit: NASA

In 2014, Boeing was awarded a contract through NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program to provide commercial launch services to the International Space Station (ISS). To this end, they have been busy developing the CST-100 Starliner, a space capsule that will be able to deliver cargo and crews of up to 7 astronauts to the ISS. On December 20th, 2019, the Starliner passed a major milestone when it conducted an uncrewed test.

While an error prevented this Starliner (designated Calypso) from docking with the ISS as planned, the space capsule still managed to make it to space and land safely near White Sands, New Mexico. This makes it the first crew capsule to touchdown on land in the United States. To celebrate this accomplishment, Boeing recently released a highlight reel of footage taken by cameras inside the Calypso during the flight test.

Continue reading “Finally! We get to See a View From Inside Boeing’s Starliner During its First Flight”

Boeing and Airstream Show off Their New Astronaut Transport Vehicle: the Astrovan II

Airstream's Astrovan II will transport astronauts to the launchpad for commercial crew launches aboard Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Astrovan 2 is the successor to the original Astrovan that carried Shuttle astronauts. Credit: Airstream

When it comes to brand recognition, Airstream‘s got game. Their silver, space-age looking travel trailers and touring coaches are iconic. Almost everyone recognizes their riveted aluminum bodies.

Continue reading “Boeing and Airstream Show off Their New Astronaut Transport Vehicle: the Astrovan II”

SLS Rocket Promises To Do Better

SLS Block 1
Artist rendering of SLS Block 1 Rocket. Credit: NASA

A dramatic week in space launcher politics has left NASA’s Space Launch System (SLS) with a vastly reduced launch manifesto and casts doubt on the prospects of future upgrades to the massive launch vehicle.

On Monday the White House’s budget request laid out the administration’s plans for NASA’s coming years. For SLS there were three significant changes.

Continue reading “SLS Rocket Promises To Do Better”