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Boeing’s Starliner Won't Meet Up With Space Station After Failure to Reach Proper Orbit – Gizmodo

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Artistic conception of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner.
Image: Boeing

Update 11:15 a.m. ET: NASA and Boeing officials shared more details about the anomaly at a press conference this morning, which opened with NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine saying, “This is in fact why we test.”

As he and his colleagues explained, it’s still too early to be sure, but the problem appears to be related to a software automation glitch. During separation from the Atlas V rocket, for reasons that aren’t yet clear, Starliner switched to the wrong clock. By not having the correct time, Starliner mistakenly believed it needed to perform an orbital insertion burn. Accordingly, the spacecraft “tried to maintain a control that it wouldn’t normally have done,” and it burned excessive fuel as a result, said Bridenstine. This forced the flight team to rule out the planned docking with the ISS.

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The NASA chief noted that, had a crew been on board, they would have been safe and capable of operating the vehicle themselves. Perhaps ironically, it was the lack of human control that resulted in the error, showing the limitations of uncrewed testing.

“Had we been on board, we could’ve given the flight team more options,” said NASA astronaut Mike Fincke at the press conference. His colleague NASA astronaut Nicole Mann agreed, saying astronauts could have taken manual control of the thrusters or performed a de-orbit, among many other tasks. “That’s our job—that’s what we’re trained to do,” she said, adding: “We don’t have any safety concerns.”

When Starliner went off the rails, the flight team attempted to send backup commands to the spacecraft using the Tracking and Data Relay Satellite System (TDRSS). But, “we were between TDRSS satellites,” said Bridenstine, which made a link impossible. At the press conference, Jim Chilton, senior vice president of the Space and Launch division of Boeing Defense, Space & Security (BDS), said, “We found ourselves in a place where it was hard to get that link in.”

Bridenstine said it was premature to know if this setback would delay a future Starliner crewed mission to the ISS, but he made it clear that the successful docking of an uncrewed spacecraft is not a requirement for moving forward. The Space Shuttle missions, he said, involved crews that had to dock with various spacecraft for the very first time. This is a strong hint that the mission will move forward without much delay and that a crewed mission aboard Starliner is still very much in the cards.

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Indeed, it appears that everything else went right with this mission, from the performance of the Atlas V rocket to the performance of Starliner itself, software glitch notwithstanding. The crew cabin, though empty, is operating as planned, according to the NASA and Boeing officials.

That said, this test mission is not over. Later today, the spacecraft will make a series of burns to raise its orbit higher, and it’s expected to make an atmospheric re-entry in about 48 hours, landing at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico.

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The original article appears below.

Early Friday morning, Boeing launched its uncrewed CST-100 Starliner from Cape Canaveral in Florida, but the spacecraft experienced an “off-nominal” orbital insertion that will prevent it from rendezvousing with the International Space Station. It’s a disappointing setback to Boeing’s aspirations to eventually deliver astronauts to the ISS on behalf of NASA.

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All seemed well at first, as the uncrewed CST-100 Starliner departed Cape Canaveral this morning atop an Atlas V rocket, blasting off at 6:36 a.m. ET. Around 30 minutes into the launch, however, it became clear that the spacecraft did not reach its intended orbit, and it won’t be able to rendezvous with the International Space Station as planned due to lack of fuel, according to NASA chief Jim Bridenstine.

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As Bridenstine explained in a series of tweets, Starliner experienced a “Mission Elapsed Time” anomaly, which made the spacecraft believe “it was in an orbital insertion burn, when it was not.” As a result, Starliner burned more fuel than it was supposed to, which will now prevent it from meeting up with the ISS. That said, Starliner is currently in a “safe and stable configuration,” according to a Boeing press release.

Jonathan McDowell, an astronomer at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, shared some insight into the incident in a tweet, saying the anomaly wouldn’t have posed a risk to human life.

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This is definitely discouraging news. Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Development program, which is seeking to restore America’s ability to independently deliver astronauts to space—something the U.S. hasn’t been able to do since the retirement of the Space Shuttle program in 2011. Had this mission gone well, Boeing and NASA could have proceeded toward the next step, namely a crewed launch early next year. It’s unclear how today’s setback might influence that timeline.

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NASA will be holding a press conference at 9:30 a.m. today, at which time we’ll learn more about this incident. We will update this post accordingly, so stay tuned.

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NASA will launch the CAPSTONE mission on Monday, June 27 – electriccitymagazine.ca

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Rocket Lab's Electron rocket sits atop the launch pad at Launch Complex 1 in New Zealand for a rehearsal before the CAPSTONE launch.

A small satellite is preparing to pave the way for something much greater: a fully grown lunar space station. NASA’s CAPSTONE satellite is scheduled to launch on Monday and then travel to a unique lunar orbit on the Pathfinder mission Artemis programwhich seeks to return humans to the moon later this decade.

capstone He rides aboard Rocket Lab’s Electron rocket, which will take off from the private company’s Launch Complex 1 in Mahia, New Zealand. Rocket Lab made headlines in May using a helicopter to catch a falling booster missile. CAPSTONE is scheduled to launch at 6 AM ET on June 27 with live coverage starting an hour earlier. You can watch the event in the agency website or ApplicationOr, you can watch it on the live stream below.

NASA Live: The official broadcast of NASA TV

About a week after the CAPSTONE mission, the probe’s flight will be available through NASA Eyes on the solar system Interactive 3D visualization of data in real time.

The Cislunar Autonomous Positioning System Technology Operations and Navigation Experiment (CAPSTONE) mission will send a microwave-sized satellite into near corona orbit (NRHO) around the moon. The satellite will be the first to sail its way around this unique lunar orbit, testing it for the planned date Moon Gatea small space station intended to allow a permanent human presence on the moon.

NRHO is special in that it is where the gravitational force of the Moon and Earth interact. This orbit would theoretically keep the spacecraft in a “beautiful gravitational spot” in a near-stable orbit around the Moon, according to to NASA. Therefore NRHO is ideal because it will require less fuel than conventional orbits and will allow the proposed lunar space station to maintain a stable line of communication with Earth. But before NASA builds its gateway into this highly elliptical orbit, the space agency will use CAPSTONE — which is owned and operated by Colorado-based Advanced Space — to test its orbital models.

Artist’s concept of CAPSTONE.
GIF: NASA/Daniel Rutter

Six days after launch from Earth, the upper stage of the Electron rocket will launch the CAPSTONE satellite on its journey to the Moon. The 55-pound (25-kilogram) cube vehicle will perform the rest of the four-month solo journey. Once on the moon, CAPSTONE will test the orbital dynamics of its orbit for about six months. The satellite will also be used to test spacecraft-to-spacecraft navigation technology and unidirectional range capabilities that could eventually reduce the need for future spacecraft to communicate with mission controllers on Earth and wait for signals from other spacecraft to relay.

NASA is systematically putting together the pieces for the agency’s planned return to the Moon. The The fourth and final rehearsal for the space agency’s Space Launch System (SLS) went wellpaving the way for a possible launch in late August.

more: This small satellite linked to the moon can make a path to the lunar space station

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Astronaut view of New Zealand's North Island – Earth.com

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Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features the North Island of New Zealand. The photo was captured as the International Space Station (ISS) approached the southernmost extent of its prograde 51.6 degree orbit. 

From this vantage point – and with the perfect weather conditions – astronauts can get a clear view of the North Island of New Zealand, according  to ESA.

“Looking towards the northwest, the astronaut photographer captured the mottled-green island that separates the Tasman Sea from the South Pacific Ocean. On the other side of Cook Strait, South Island peeks out from beneath the cloud cover,” reports ESA.

“Seven bays surround the North Island and define its distinctive shape. The inland landscape includes grasslands (lighter green areas), forests (darker green areas), volcanic plateaus, and mountain ranges formed from sedimentary rocks.”

Lake Taupō, located in the center of the North Island, is a crater lake inside a caldera formed by a supervolcanic eruption. The lake borders the active volcano Mount Ruapehu, which has the highest peak in New Zealand. 

“The volcanic nature of the island arises from its location on the tectonic plate boundary between the Indo-Australian and Pacific Plates,” says ESA. “This plate boundary is part of the vast Pacific Ring of Fire, and leads to significant geothermal activity and earthquakes in the region. Additional volcanoes, including Egmont Volcano (Mount Taranaki), also dot the North Island landscape.”

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

By Chrissy Sexton, Earth.com Staff Writer

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Artemis 1 moon mission could launch as soon as late August – Space.com

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NASA officials have declared the Artemis 1 moon rocket’s most recent “wet dress rehearsal” a success and are hopeful the mission can get off the ground as soon as late August.

The Artemis 1 stack — a Space Launch System (SLS) rocket topped by an Orion capsule — is scheduled to roll back to the Vehicle Assembly Building (VAB) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center (KSC) in Florida on July 1, where the massive vehicle will undergo repairs and preparations for its coming launch. 

Artemis 1, the first launch for the SLS, will send an uncrewed Orion on a roughly month-long mission around the moon. The mission has experienced several delays, and most recently the rocket’s certification to fly has been held up by incomplete fueling tests — a key part of the wet dress rehearsal, a three-day series of trials designed to gauge a new vehicle’s readiness for flight. 

Related: NASA’s Artemis 1 moon mission explained in photos 

The Artemis 1 stack first rolled from the VAB to KSC’s Pad 39B in mid-March, to prep for a wet dress rehearsal that began on April 1. But three separate attempts to fill the SLS with cryogenic propellants during that effort failed, sending the stack back to the VAB for repairs on April 25. The most recent wet dress try, which wrapped up on Monday (June 20), didn’t go perfectly, but NASA has deemed it good enough to proceed with preparations for launch.

Operators were able to fully fuel SLS for the first time, bringing the launch simulation much further along than any of the attempts in April. A leak from the core stage’s engine cooling system “umbilical” line was detected during Monday’s fueling test, but mission managers determined that the deviation didn’t pose a safety risk and continued with the simulation’s terminal count. That ended up being the right decision, Artemis 1 team members said.  

Mission operators were able to run a “mask” for the leak in the ground launch sequencer software, which permitted computers in mission control to acknowledge the malfunction without flagging it as a reason to halt the countdown, according to Phil Weber, senior technical integration manager at KSC. Weber joined other agency officials on a press call Friday (June 24) to discuss the plans for Artemis 1 now that the wet dress is in the rear view mirror.

The software mask allowed the count to continue through to the handoff from the mission control computers to the automated launch sequencer (ALS) aboard the SLS at T-33 seconds, which ultimately terminated the count at T-29 seconds. 

“[ALS] was really the prize for us for the day,” Weber said during Friday’s call. “We expected … it was going to break us out [of the countdown] because the ALS looks for that same measurement, and we don’t have the capability to mask it onboard.” 

It was unclear immediately following the recent wet dress if another one would be required, but mission team members later put that question to rest.

“At this point, we’ve determined that we have successfully completed the evaluations and required work we intended to complete for the dress rehearsal,” Tom Whitmeyer, deputy associate administrator for Common Exploration Systems at NASA headquarters, said on Friday’s call. He added that NASA teams now have the “go ahead to proceed” with preparations for Artemis 1’s launch.

Before it can be rolled back to the VAB, however, the stack will undergo further maintenance at Pad 39B, including repairs to the quick-disconnect component on the aft SLS umbilical, which was responsible for Monday’s hydrogen leak. 

There’s also one more test technicians need to perform at the pad. Hot-firing the hydraulic power units (HBUs), part of the SLS’ solid rocket boosters, was originally part of the wet dress countdown but was omitted when the countdown was aborted. Those tests will be completed by Saturday (June 25), according to Lanham. Following the hot-fire tests, operators will then spend the weekend offloading the HBUs’ hydrazine fuel.

Once back in the VAB, NASA officials estimate it’ll take six to eight weeks of work to get Artemis 1 ready to roll back to Pad 39B for an actual liftoff. Cliff Lanham, senior vehicle operations manager at KSC, outlined some of the planned maintenance on Friday’s call. 

Related: NASA’s Artemis program of lunar exploration

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Among other tasks, technicians will perform standard vehicle inspections, hydrogen leak repairs, “late-stow” for the payloads flying on Orion, and software loads to the SLS core stage and upper stage. They will also install flight batteries.

“Ultimately, we want to get to our flight termination system testing,” Lanham said. “Once that’s complete, we’ll be able to perform our final inspections in all the volumes of the vehicle and do our closeouts.”

After that work is complete, the Artemis 1 stack will roll out from the VAB once again, making the eight to 11-hour crawl back to Pad 39B on July 1. Whitmeyer said on Friday that the late-August launch window for Artemis 1, which opens on Aug. 23 and lasts for one week, is “still on the table.”

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