WASHINGTON — Boeing is taking a $410 million charge to its earnings to cover a potential additional uncrewed test flight of its CST-100 Starliner, although company officials say there’s no decision yet about whether such a flight is necessary.
The company said in its fourth quarter earnings release Jan. 29 that it was taking the charge “primarily to provision for an additional uncrewed mission for the Commercial Crew program, performance and mix.” It noted that NASA was still reviewing data from the Orbital Flight Test (OFT) mission in December that was cut short, without a docking at the International Space Station, by a timer problem.
“NASA is in the process of reviewing the data from our December 2019 mission,” Greg Smith, chief financial officer at Boeing, said in an earnings call. “NASA’s approval is required to proceed with a flight test with astronauts on board. Given this obligation, we are provisioned for another uncrewed mission.” Neither he nor Boeing’s new chief executive, David Calhoun, elaborated on that during the call, which was devoted primarily to issues related to the company’s 737 MAX airliner.
Boeing officials, speaking at the 23rd Annual Commercial Space Transportation Conference here Jan. 29, did not directly address that charge, but played up the aspects of the test flight that went well while noting the investigation into the root cause of the timer problem was ongoing.
“We’ve been doing a lot of work internally looking at the results and we found that the vehicle actually performed exceptionally when you look at all the other activities that it did,” said Peter McGrath, global sales and marketing director for space exploration at Boeing Defense and Space. “Right now we’re working with NASA, with an independent team, to look at root cause and corrective actions we need to do for the next mission.”
“The mission didn’t go as planned because we made a mistake,” said Jim Chilton, senior vice president for space and launch at Boeing Defense and Space. The timer issue, he said, caused the spacecraft to think it was in a different phase of the mission immediately after separation from its Atlas 5 launch vehicle.
Other aspects of the spacecraft, he said, performed well. That included, he said, the spacecraft’s thrusters, a topic of particular scrutiny since they were stressed during the mission. “We had a great propulsion test. It was in advertent. We didn’t plan to fire those thrusters as many times in a row early in first flight as we did,” he said. “The good news is they worked like a charm.”
Some of the thrusters did have to be turned off because they heated up, Chilton said. Those thrusters were turned back on “incrementally,” he said, with the exception of one thruster that did not turn back on. “We feel pretty good about our propulsion system.”
He added that a few things “surprised” them, such as initial communications problems once Starliner was in orbit, which may be simply the attitude the spacecraft was in. He said an initial set of data reviews from the mission should be completed by the end of this week. “We’re really not seeing any big showstoppers, although we do see things we think we’ll change,” he said.
In an interview after his remarks, Chilton said the decision to take the $410 million charge was a precautionary one. “We’re ready for anything,” he said. “NASA is going to decide what we should do next, but they could decide to refly an OFT, and if that’s what they want to do, we’re ready for it.”
There is no formal timeline for a decision on whether to fly another uncrewed Starliner, although Chilton said that he expected it to come by the end of February.
NASA’s Orion spacecraft breaks Apollo 13 flight record
The Artemis 1 Orion crew vehicle has set a new record for a NASA flight. At approximately 8:40AM ET on Saturday, Orion flew farther than any spacecraft designed to carry human astronauts had ever before, surpassing the previous record set by Apollo 13 back in 1970. As of 10:17AM ET, Orion was approximately 249,666 miles ( from 401,798 kilometers) from Earth.
“Artemis I was designed to stress the systems of Orion and we settled on the distant retrograde orbit as a really good way to do that,” said Jim Geffre, Orion spacecraft integration manager. “It just so happened that with that really large orbit, high altitude above the moon, we were able to pass the Apollo 13 record. But what was more important though, was pushing the boundaries of exploration and sending spacecraft farther than we had ever done before.”
Of all the missions that could have broken the record, it’s fitting that Artemis 1 was the one to do it. As , Apollo 13’s original flight plan didn’t call for a record-setting flight. It was only after a mid-mission explosion forced NASA to plot a new return course that Apollo 13’s Odyssey command module set the previous record at 248,655 miles (400,171 kilometers) from Earth.
With a limited oxygen supply on the Aquarius Lunar Module, NASA needed to get Apollo 13 back to Earth as quickly as possible. The agency eventually settled on a flight path that used the Moon’s gravity to slingshot Apollo 13 back to Earth. One of the NASA personnel who was critical to the safe return of astronauts Jim Lovell, Jack Swigert and Fred Haise was . He wrote the emergency plan that gave the Command and Service Module enough power to make it back to Earth. Artemis 1 is carrying a “” test dummy named after the late Arturo.
Earlier this week, Orion completed a . After the spacecraft completes half an orbit around the satellite, it will slingshot itself toward the Earth. NASA expects Orion to splash down off the coast of San Diego on December 11th.
Shocking! This asteroid CRASHED into Earth, says NASA; Check asteroid impact site – HT Tech
NASA has revealed that an asteroid crashed into the Earth on Saturday, November 19. Here’s where this asteroid hit Earth.
In the midst of all the terrifyingly close asteroid flybys, NASA has now revealed that an asteroid actually crashed into the Earth just days ago! NASA keeps a watch on these asteroids by studying data collected by various space and ground-based telescopes and observatories such as the Pan-STARRS, the Catalina Sky Survey and the NEOWISE telescope. However, this asteroid was seemingly missed by all of them and was discovered just hours before impact!
NASA has revealed that the asteroid lit up the sky as it flew over Southern Ontario, Canada on Saturday, November 19. What’s shocking is that this 3-foot asteroid was detected just 3.5 hours before impact! However, such small-sized asteroids do not pose a risk to the planet.
The tech that tracked the asteroid
The asteroid was first spotted by NASA’s Catalina Sky Survey and the observations were then reported to the Minor Planet Center. NASA’s Scout impact hazard assessment system calculated the asteroid’s trajectory and possible impact sites by analyzing the data. Just minutes after getting the data, a 25 percent probability of hitting Earth’s atmosphere was calculated.
Shantanu Naidu, navigation engineer and Scout operator at JPL said in a NASA JPL blog, “Small objects such as this one can only be detected when they are very close to Earth, so if they are headed for an impact, time is of the essence to collect as many observations as possible.”
“This object was discovered early enough that the planetary defense community could provide more observations, which Scout then used to confirm the impact and predict where and when the asteroid was going to hit,” he added further.
Asteroid impact site
The possible impact sites ranged from the Atlantic Ocean off the East Coast of North America to Mexico. According to NASA, the asteroid is likely to have burned up upon entering the planet’s atmosphere and scattered small meteorites over the southern coastline of Lake Ontario.
Calculating the asteroid’s trajectory and impact site was a community effort with added inputs from amateur astronomers from the Farpoint Observatory in Eskridge, Kansas, who tracked the asteroid for more than an hour and provided the critical data required to accurately calculate the asteroid’s path and impact site.
China plans to build nuclear-powered moon base within six years – The Province
China plans to build its first base on the moon by 2028, ahead of landing astronauts there in subsequent years as the country steps up its challenge to NASA’s dominance in space exploration.
The lunar base will likely be powered by nuclear energy, Caixin reported. Its basic configuration will consist of a lander, hopper, orbiter and rover, all of which would be constructed by the Chang’e 6, 7 and 8 missions.
“Our astronauts will likely be able to go to the moon within 10 years,” Wu Weiran, chief designer of China’s lunar exploration program, said in an interview with state broadcaster CCTV earlier this week. Nuclear energy can address the lunar station’s long-term, high-power energy needs, he said.
China has ramped up its ambitions in space in recent years, sending probes to the moon, building its own space station and setting its sights on Mars. The plans have put it in direct competition with the U.S. NASA has a rover on the Red Planet and is seeking to return astronauts to the moon this decade for the first time since the Apollo program ended in the 1970s.
Both China and the U.S. are spending billions of dollars to not just put humans on the moon, but also to access resources that could foster life on the lunar surface or send spacecraft to Mars.
In 2019, China became the first country to land a rover on the far side of the moon, and later brought back its first lunar samples. The base is intended to be the first outpost on the moon’s South Pole, an area scientists think is the best place to find water. NASA is also targeting that part of the moon. China aims to eventually expand the base into an international research station.
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