SEATTLE/CAPE CANAVERAL (Reuters) – Boeing Co’s (BA.N) stunted Friday debut of its astronaut capsule threatens to dent the U.S. aerospace incumbent’s self-declared competitive advantage of mission reliability against the price and innovation strengths of “new space” players like Elon Musk’s SpaceX.
The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, atop a ULA Atlas V rocket, lifts off for an uncrewed Orbital Flight Test to the International Space Station from launch complex 40 at the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Cape Canaveral, Florida December 20, 2019. REUTERS/Thom Baur
Boeing, the world’s largest aerospace company, has anchored its attempt to repel space visionaries like Musk and Amazon.com (AMZN.O) founder Jeff Bezos partly on its mission safety record built up over decades of space travel.
While SpaceX and Bezos’ Blue Origin are racing to send their own crewed missions to space for the first time, Boeing or Boeing heritage companies have built every American spacecraft that has transported astronauts into space. And the single-use rockets it builds in partnership with Lockheed Martin Corp (LMT.N) have a virtually unblemished record of mission success.
“We are starting from a position of mission reliability and safety,” Boeing Chief Executive Dennis Muilenburg told Reuters earlier this year when asked about SpaceX and other insurgents aiming to disrupt Boeing on everything from astronaut capsules to rockets to satellites.
“There is a difference between putting cargo in space and putting humans in space, and that’s a big step. Our very deliberate, safety-based approach for things like CST-100, that will be a differentiator in the long run,” Muilenburg said.
The actual technical glitch that stunted Friday’s CST-100 Starliner mission to the International Space Station was a timer error though Boeing said it was too early to determine the exact cause of the fault.
Boeing was already working to surmount other technical and safety-related challenges on the multibillion-dollar NASA human spaceflight program. A government watchdog report in November found Boeing demanded “unnecessary” new contract funds from NASA.
Friday’s glitch adds to a year of intense scrutiny over how Boeing developed its money-spinning 737 MAX jetliner following twin crashes that killed 346 people in five months.
While there is no link between the 737 MAX crashes and the Starliner setback, one rocket industry executive told Reuters that in both cases problems arose as Boeing was racing to catch up with fast-moving rivals.
Boeing had no immediate comment.
“From a public relations standpoint, this error makes them not look so good because of all the 737 MAX issues,” said Teal Group space analyst Marco Caceres. “If you look at this in isolation, I don’t think of it as a massive problem for Boeing. There are only two companies picked for this program – that is an enviable place for Boeing to be, as long as nothing tragic happens.”
SpaceX successfully launched its own rival Crew Dragon astronaut capsule on a roundtrip journey to the ISS earlier this year, though it faces its own technical problems.
It is challenging Boeing’s space business more broadly by slashing the cost of accessing space with pioneering reusable rocket technology.
Bezos’ Blue Origin is also developing rockets and capsules for human and cargo space flights.
SpaceX is working toward a manned mission in first-quarter 2020. It declined to comment on Boeing’s setback.
There is no overlap between Boeing and SpaceX’s separate rocket-and-capsule systems.
But Boeing’s woes raise the stakes for SpaceX to perform successfully on upcoming tests as Boeing works to pinpoint the root cause, which may trigger months of delays and new costs if NASA requires design tweaks and a redo of Friday’s mission.
“SpaceX continues to move forward even if Boeing has a setback, NASA chief Jim Bridenstine told reporters on Friday. “And, back in April, SpaceX had a setback and Boeing was continuing to move forward.”
Bridenstine added that NASA has a number of options on the table to make sure the impact of Boeing’s test failure does not cut off access to the space station.
“There are other companies that want to be a part of commercial crew,” Bridenstine added, citing Lockheed’s Orion capsule for eventual lunar missions.
Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle and Joey Roulette in Cape Canaveral, Florida; Additional reporting by Mike Stone in Washington; Editing by Greg Mitchell, Tim Hepher and Alistair Bell
When the pee hit the fan: What SpaceX passengers didn't mention about their flight – National Post
Repeat incidents of loose toilet tubing leads engineers to check that capsules’ internal structure integrity is still intact
SpaceX is under two tight and important deadlines this week: Not only is it preparing the launch of another of its Dragon capsules on Sunday to take four astronauts to the International Space Station, it is also fixing the embarrassing problem of a loose hose on a toilet, which has a tendency to spring liquid leaks into the interior.
In mid-September, when five private guests were in the air on the first-ever passenger flight, glue on a toilet tube came unsealed, spilling urine onto a fan and leaking under the floor. The incident also happened on another capsule, which has been docked at the International Space Station since April.
The design flaw has apparently been fixed in the new Endurance capsule by welding the urine-flushing tube to its attachment point. Study continues on the other capsules to test the integrity of the tube and to ensure the spill didn’t weaken the docked capsule in any way, said William Gerstenmaier, a SpaceX vice-president who used to work for NASA. Crew rotation will see astronauts come back to Earth in November.
In the Dragon capsule docked at the space station, less urine had leaked under the floor panels than in the one that carried a billionaire and three others on a three-day flight, Gerstenmaier told the Associated Press . That may simply be due to the NASA-led crew only being in the capsule a day before docking at the space station. The capsule repairs will be completed later this week.
The Oct. 31 launch will be SpaceX’s fourth of NASA astronauts, its fifth passenger flight and its 28th visit to the ISS. After NASA retired its shuttle fleet in 2011, it contracted SpaceX and Boeing to take crews to and from the space station. NASA astronauts piggybacked on Russian flights until SpaceX took over last year.
Boeing has yet to launch anyone. A repeat test flight of its Starliner capsule, without a crew, has been postponed until next year over valve trouble.
Once he launches atop SpaceX’s Falcon rocket, NASA says German astronaut Matthias Maurer will become the 600th person in space and U.S. crewmate Kayla Barron will be the 601st.
But, he said, “she and I will be together like No. 600. I was the lucky one that got the round number, but we will all have fun in space.”
Spacecraft commander and NASA astronaut Raja Chari said Tuesday that he has “complete confidence” in the repairs.
NASA's Perseverance rover beamed back striking images of Mars after 2 weeks cut off from Earth – Yahoo Movies Canada
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover sent back new pictures after being offline for two weeks.
The rover was out of touch while Mars the other side of the sun, a period called “solar conjunction.”
During that time, messages from Earth can be garbled as they pass the sun’s charged particles.
NASA’s Perseverance Mars rover sent back its first pictures after spending two weeks out of reach from Earth.
NASA scientists limited their communication with the rover during the “solar conjunction” between September 28 and October 17, when Mars and Earth are opposite sides of the sun.
The rover was parked between a dune and a rocky outcrop, waiting to come back online, according to its Twitter feed. It used the downtime to monitor the weather and see how Martian dust moves in the wind.
During solar conjunction, which happens once every two years, Earth-bound scientists were asked not to try to communicate with the rover, with a strict moratorium on communications between October 2 and 16.
They worried that signals could be garbled as they pass the sun and interact with its charged particles, per NASA.
If data sent by the rover is lost along the way, that’s not such a big deal, according to NASA.
But the risk is that the other way around, commands sent from Earth are jumbled when they arrive on Mars, which could be misunderstood and cause the rover to damage itself, as shown in the clip below from a NASA video:
During the solar conjunction the rover is put on autopilot. Some scientists took the chance to take some vacation, NASA said.
The rover was “back to work” on October 25, according to its Twitter feed. Below are a few pictures sent back since the end of the solar conjunction.
Before going offline, the rover gathered two major successes for the mission.
Images from the rover also revealed that an ancient river was sometimes overcome by flash floods that dragged heavy boulders at speeds as high as 20 mph.
Read the original article on Business Insider
Earth's Inner Core Is Home To A 'New Hidden World,' Finds Study – India Times
Earth’s solid inner core may be home to a “hidden new world”, scientists have claimed. Within the scientific community, there is consensus about Earth’s inner core being a solid compressed ball of iron alloy, which is surrounded by the Earth’s outer core. A new study may change that understanding of the Earth’s insides.
Published on September 20, the new research suggests that Earth’s inner core may not be as solid as previously thought, and that it has certain semisoft characteristics where liquid metal is stored.
Earth’s core isn’t easy to study
The major problem with studying the Earth’s core is that it still remains inaccessible. In fact, for humans to ever get raw access to the Earth’s core, the planet must undergo some sort of disaster than rips it open.
With so much heat and pressure at the centre of Earth, it’s not ideal for humans to travel into or to even send remote probes.
Most of what we know about the Earth’s centre is based on readings taken from the crust (the surface). Vibrations from seismic waves caused by earthquakes or movement of tectonic plates are scientists’ only window into the Earth’s centre.
Why Earth’s inner core may be semisolid
The new liquid characters of Earth’s inner core were discovered by Rhett Butler from the Hawai’i Institute of Geophysics and Planetology. While trying to understand how seismic waves travel through different layers of Earth, Butler found that instead of going in a straight direction (as a solid metal ball would facilitate), the waves kept getting deflected in certain areas.
Based on this, Butler ascertained that the Earth’s core isn’t as solid as previously assumed and that it has certain areas where liquids may be found. By comparing their readings, scientists involved in the study found that the Earth’s core has certain pockets of “mushy” liquid and semi-solid iron near the surface.
In conversation with Live Science, a seismologist from the University of Bristol, Jessica Irving said that this means we’re now “finding a whole new hidden world.” Irving did not contribute to the study.
What are your thoughts on this startling new claim about Earth’s inner core? Share with us in the comments below.
Antipodal seismic reflections upon shear wave velocity structures within Earth’s inner core. (2021, December 1). ScienceDirect.
Thompson, J. (2021, October 27). “New hidden world” discovered in Earth’s inner core. Livescience.Com.
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