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SpaceX is Likely to Put People in Space Before Boeing

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On December 20, 2019, Boeing (NYSE:BA) flubbed one of its most important missions ever.

The test flight in question aimed to send an uncrewed CST-100 “Starliner” spacecraft to the International Space Station and back, laying the groundwork for a crewed mission to carry honest-to-goodness astronauts to ISS early this year.

Unfortunately, a computer glitch on the spacecraft failed to fire the Starliner’s engines at the correct time. As a result, Starliner never made it to ISS, and had to return to land ignominiously back on Earth, its mission largely a failure. For months afterward, Boeing negotiated with NASA, arguing back and forth about whether the company should be allowed to proceed with a crewed mission in hopes that having astronauts aboard this time will prevent a recurrence. Ultimately, though, NASA decided that Boeing would have to re-do its initial test flight, and prove its spacecraft is capable of glitch-free automated flying.

Last week, Boeing finally agreed. At a cost of $410 million, it will refly the uncrewed “Orbital Flight Test,” probably in October or November this year.

So what does this mean now for Boeing — and for SpaceX, its archrival in spaceflight?

Image source: SpaceX.

SpaceX wins

Barring some unforeseen event, it means that SpaceX is going to win the “race to space” against Boeing.

You see, SpaceX was also asked by NASA to run an uncrewed mission to ISS first, to ensure that its equipment works right, then follow that up with a crewed mission. On March 2, 2019, SpaceX accomplished the first half of this plan without a hitch, flying a Crew Dragon space capsule to ISS atop a Falcon 9 rocket, docking successfully with the space station, and then, 27 hours later, returning to Earth.

SpaceX ran into difficulties afterwards — most notably an April 20 “anomaly” that destroyed its first test vehicle in an explosion during an engine test — but there were other issues as well. The fact is, if none of those had happened, SpaceX would probably already have sent astronauts to ISS once or twice by now. But with most glitches presumably ironed out today, SpaceX looks all-systems-go to attempt its first crewed spacecraft launch — ever — probably next month.

According to the space watchers at SpaceflightNow.com, SpaceX is scheduled to fly its “Demo-2” Crew Dragon mission in late May, carrying NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken to the International Space Station and then returning to Earth under remote control after depositing them there for their assignments.

If all goes as planned, SpaceX will write itself into the history books as the first privately owned space company to ever send humans into orbit — and the company that gave NASA back the ability to launch U.S. astronauts into space from U.S. territory.

As for Boeing, however, even if its uncrewed Starliner mission goes off without a hitch later this year, and even if it follows that up with a successful crewed mission, Boeing will forever after be a runner-up to SpaceX.

SpaceX wins, Boeing loses … profits?

Nor is pride of place the only thing Boeing might lose if SpaceX beats it to ISS again. When NASA originally awarded “Commercial Crew” contracts to Boeing and SpaceX back in 2014, it promised to pay SpaceX $2.6 billion to run “at least two, and as many as six, crewed missions to the space station,” but promised to pay Boeing $4.2 billion to do exactly the same thing.

Presumably, NASA paid Boeing a premium because of its hard-won reputation as one of America’s go-to space companies (alongside Lockheed Martin), and as one half of the Boeing-Lockheed joint venture United Launch Alliance, which has successfully launched 138 rockets in a row into orbit without suffering a single failure. (Even in the abortive December 2019 Starliner mission, it was only the Boeing spaceship that failed to operate correctly. The ULA Atlas V rocket that launched the spacecraft performed flawlessly.) Back then, SpaceX was the unknown quantity, and Boeing the presumed expert in spaceflight — an expert worth paying a premium to, to ensure that at least one spacecraft could fulfill the mission.

Now, however, if SpaceX ends up beating Boeing to ISS not just once, but twice, on both its uncrewed and its crewed missions, the arguments in favor of paying premium prices to Boeing for doing the same work SpaceX is doing could fall short. Going forward, Boeing may be forced to compete much more with SpaceX on the price of missions, and won’t be able to lean as heavily on its reputation to justify pricing its missions at a premium. One has to imagine the loss of its ability to charge premium prices will show up on the company’s income statement in the form of reduced profit margins.

Long story short: May could be a brilliant month for SpaceX. It could also mark a decline in profitability for Boeing’s space division — and the beginning of the end for Boeing’s reputation as America’s premier space company.

Updated on April 20, 2020

By Harry Miller

Credit: Motley Fool

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After weather delay, SpaceX set for second try at first crewed launch Saturday – Yahoo News Canada

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SpaceX successfully launches historic first crewed spacecraft to the ISS
SpaceX successfully launches historic first crewed spacecraft to the ISSSpaceX successfully launches historic first crewed spacecraft to the ISS

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SpaceX successfully launches historic first crewed spacecraft to the ISS
Crew-Dragon-demo-2-launch-NASATVCrew-Dragon-demo-2-launch-NASATV

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<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="NASA and SpaceX launched the first crewed commercial spacecraft on Saturday, May 30, 2020. Credit: NASA TV” data-reactid=”72″>NASA and SpaceX launched the first crewed commercial spacecraft on Saturday, May 30, 2020. Credit: NASA TV

After being delayed by weather earlier this week, NASA and SpaceX made history on Saturday.

The Crew Dragon spacecraft successfully lifted off from Launch Complex 39A, at Kennedy Space Center, at 3:22 p.m. EDT on May 30, 2020. This is the first time astronauts have launched from the United States in nearly nine years, and it is now the very first commercial spaceflight mission to launch humans into orbit.

“We are so proud and happy for Doug and Bob,” astronaut Nicole Mann, who is slated to fly on a future commercial launch on Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, said in a NASA statement earlier this week. “It feels kind of like one of your close family members having a great lifetime achievement — and really, that’s what it is.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Watch below for a full recap of this historic space launch.” data-reactid=”76″>Watch below for a full recap of this historic space launch.

After the launch, the Falcon 9 booster completed its journey to orbit, carrying Behnken and Hurley onboard Crew Dragon, in just under 9 minutes. By the time the astronauts got to experience the weightlessness of being in orbit, the 1st stage of the Falcon 9 rocket was already setting down on the droneship “Of Course I Still Love You”, out on the Atlantic Ocean.

Crew-Dragon-Launch-3Crew-Dragon-Launch-3

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<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The first stage of the Falcon 9 booster rocket sits on the droneship out at sea (left). Meanwhile, Behnken and Hurley continue their mission in space (right). Credit: NASA TV” data-reactid=”103″>The first stage of the Falcon 9 booster rocket sits on the droneship out at sea (left). Meanwhile, Behnken and Hurley continue their mission in space (right). Credit: NASA TV

Now, as Crew Dragon makes its way towards the International Space Station, set to arrive at 10:29 a.m. Sunday, May 31, this Falcon 9 booster will be brought back to shore. It will either go on to launch other missions – crewed or uncrewed – into space, or SpaceX may turn it into a monument, as they did with the first booster that they successfully landed at Cape Canaveral.

<h3 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="WEATHER OR NOT” data-reactid=”105″>WEATHER OR NOT

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="The final updated weather forecast from the U.S. Air Force's 45th Weather Squadron, as of Saturday afternoon, gave a 70 per cent chance of favourable conditions for the Demo-2 launch attempt. The primary weather concerns given were the potential for cumulus or anvil (cumulonimbus) clouds in the vicinity of the launch site, and the possibility of the rocket flying through precipitation. All of those conditions cleared in the area as of around 2:30 p.m. EDT, allowing the forecast team to give a "go" for weather on the launch.” data-reactid=”106″>The final updated weather forecast from the U.S. Air Force’s 45th Weather Squadron, as of Saturday afternoon, gave a 70 per cent chance of favourable conditions for the Demo-2 launch attempt. The primary weather concerns given were the potential for cumulus or anvil (cumulonimbus) clouds in the vicinity of the launch site, and the possibility of the rocket flying through precipitation. All of those conditions cleared in the area as of around 2:30 p.m. EDT, allowing the forecast team to give a “go” for weather on the launch.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="While cumulus or cumulonimbus clouds near the launch site would indicate the presence of turbulence and possibly strong upper-level wind shear, both of which could affect a rocket's flight, the only reason for these rules is the potential for lightning.” data-reactid=”107″>While cumulus or cumulonimbus clouds near the launch site would indicate the presence of turbulence and possibly strong upper-level wind shear, both of which could affect a rocket’s flight, the only reason for these rules is the potential for lightning.

45th Weather Wing forecasters consider a list of 10 Lightning Launch Commit Criteria (LLCC) leading up to a rocket launch from Kennedy Space Center.

The conditions they were on the lookout for: cumulus clouds or lightning-producing storm clouds over or down-range of the launch site; thick stratus clouds directly above the rocket; anvil clouds (cumulonimbus) or rainy weather to the west of the launch pad; the presence of strong electric fields in the vicinity of the launch site. Any of these conditions could either produce natural lightning, or cause rocket-triggered lightning, which is potentially disastrous for the mission and crew.

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Read: Lightning strikes almost doomed the 1969 Apollo 12 Moon mission” data-reactid=”110″>Read: Lightning strikes almost doomed the 1969 Apollo 12 Moon mission

The launch attempt on Wednesday, May 27, was called off with just 17 minutes to go before T-zero. The launch team scrubbed the mission due to several weather issues, including rain, cumulus clouds and what NASA called “field mills”. Field mills refers to an instrument used to detect electric field levels in the atmosphere. The presence of strong electric fields in the area is a good indication that there is the potential for lightning in the clouds around the launch site. A rocket launching in such an environment would act as a lightning rod, triggering a lightning stroke even if one was not likely to happen naturally.

The weather factors not included in the forecasters’ Probability of Violation (POV) are the presence of upper level wind shear, solar activity, and the weather and water conditions at the potential recovery locations out on the Atlantic Ocean. These conditions could potentially impact a launch, but they are considered separately from the forecast POV.

SpaceX-Demo-2-noon-clouds-closeup-NASASpaceX-Demo-2-noon-clouds-closeup-NASA

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<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="At 12:25 p.m. EDT, May 27, 2020, SpaceX’s crewed Demo-2 launch stood ready for lift-off, with significant cloud visible near Launch Complex 39A. Credit: NASA TV” data-reactid=”133″>At 12:25 p.m. EDT, May 27, 2020, SpaceX’s crewed Demo-2 launch stood ready for lift-off, with significant cloud visible near Launch Complex 39A. Credit: NASA TV

On Wednesday, when the 45th Weather Squadron forecasters gave their final “no-go” for the launch, they had said it came down to a 10-minute window. If they could have delayed the launch from 4:33 p.m. EDT to 4:43 p.m. EDT, they likely would have been able to give the go-ahead for lift-off. Since the launch window was instantaneous, however, they were forced to stand down.

This emphasizes that, sometimes, making the “go/no-go” decision for a mission to launch on time can depend on the at-the-moment weather conditions. Even if stormy weather is crossing the launch site before lift-off, they could catch a break in the active weather, or they could get unlucky, and the weather is still too sketchy to risk it.

<h3 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="NEXT-GEN SPACEFLIGHT” data-reactid=”136″>NEXT-GEN SPACEFLIGHT

Past spacecraft that have carried astronauts into orbit were marvels of technology. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, on the other hand, looks to be something straight out of science fiction that has been made real.

Crew-Dragon-Hurley-Behnken-NASA-SpaceXCrew-Dragon-Hurley-Behnken-NASA-SpaceX

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<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="NASA astronauts Doug Hurley (foreground) and Bob Behnken sit in the Crew Dragon capsule, which is equipped with touch-screen controls. Credit: NASA” data-reactid=”158″>NASA astronauts Doug Hurley (foreground) and Bob Behnken sit in the Crew Dragon capsule, which is equipped with touch-screen controls. Credit: NASA

Although the two astronauts appear cramped in the above photograph, the Crew Dragon is surprisingly roomy when compared to older spacecraft. Even the current Soyuz capsules are very crowded, with little room for the astronauts and cosmonauts to move around during a launch.

Ripley-on-board-Crew-Dragon-SpaceX-MuskRipley-on-board-Crew-Dragon-SpaceX-Musk

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Ripley-on-board-Crew-Dragon-SpaceX-Musk

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="SpaceX’s "anthropomorphic test device" or ATD, named "Ripley", made the trip to the ISS during the uncrewed Demo-1 mission. It was certainly not crowded on this flight. Credit: NASA TV” data-reactid=”180″>SpaceX’s “anthropomorphic test device” or ATD, named “Ripley”, made the trip to the ISS during the uncrewed Demo-1 mission. It was certainly not crowded on this flight. Credit: NASA TV

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="According to NASA: "As the final flight test for SpaceX, this mission will validate the company’s crew transportation system, including the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, and operational capabilities. This also will be the first time NASA astronauts will test the spacecraft systems in orbit."” data-reactid=”181″>According to NASA: “As the final flight test for SpaceX, this mission will validate the company’s crew transportation system, including the launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, and operational capabilities. This also will be the first time NASA astronauts will test the spacecraft systems in orbit.”

<p class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="Sources: NASA | SpaceX | 45th Weather Squadron” data-reactid=”182″>Sources: NASA | SpaceX | 45th Weather Squadron

<h3 class="canvas-atom canvas-text Mb(1.0em) Mb(0)–sm Mt(0.8em)–sm" type="text" content="RELATED: SPACEX DESTROYS ROCKET DURING CRITICAL TEST” data-reactid=”183″>RELATED: SPACEX DESTROYS ROCKET DURING CRITICAL TEST

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2 astronauts head for launch pad for historic SpaceX flight – Yahoo Canada Finance

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2 astronauts climb aboard SpaceX rocket for historic flight

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Two NASA astronauts climbed into their capsule Saturday for a second attempt at a history-making ride into orbit aboard a rocket ship designed and built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company.

Stormy weather had threatened another postponement most of the day, but the outlook improved markedly in the afternoon, just ahead of the scheduled 3:22 p.m. liftoff of the 260-foot Falcon 9 in what would be the first launch of astronauts into orbit by a private company.

Their destination: the International Space Station, 250 miles above Earth.

It would also be NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade.

The mission unfolded amid the gloom of the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed over 100,000 Americans, and racial unrest across the U.S. over the death of George Floyd, a handcuffed black man, at the hands of Minneapolis police. NASA officials and others held out hope the flight would would lift American spirits.

“Maybe there’s an opportunity here for America to maybe pause and look up and see a bright, shining moment of hope at what the future looks like, that the United States of America can do extraordinary things even in difficult times,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said.

Veteran astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken pulled on their angular, white-and-black spacesuits with help from technicians wearing masks, gloves and black hoods that made them look like ninjas.

Before setting out for the launch pad in a gull-wing Tesla SUV — another Musk product — Behnken pantomimed a hug of his 6-year-old son, Theo, and said: “Are you going to listen to Mommy and make her life easy?” Hurley blew kisses to his 10-year-old son and wife.

Wednesday’s countdown of the rocket and its bullet-shaped Dragon capsule was halted at just under 17 minutes because of the threat of lightning.

President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence returned to the Kennedy Space Center for the second launch attempt.

Ever since the space shuttle was retired in 2011, NASA has relied on Russian spaceships launched from Kazakhstan to take U.S. astronauts to and from the space station.

“I would be lying to you if I told you I wasn’t nervous,” Bridenstine said before the launch attempt. “We want to do everything we can to minimize the risk, minimize the uncertainty, so that Bob and Doug will be safe.”

Because of the coronavirus, NASA severely limited the number of employees, visitors and journalists allowed deep inside Kennedy Space Center, and the crowd was relatively small, at a few thousand. At the centre ‘s tourist complex, though, all 4,000 tickets were snapped up in a few hours.

The space agency urged people to stay safe and watch from home, and by NASA’s count, at least 1.14 million viewers followed the launch preparation online. But spectators also began lining the Cape Canaveral area’s beaches and roads. Signs along the main beach drag read, “Godspeed.”

Among the spectators was Neil Wight, a machinist from Buffalo, New York, who staked out a view of the launch pad from a park in Titusville.

“It’s pretty historically significant in my book and a lot of other people’s books. With everything that’s going on in this country right now, it’s important that we do things extraordinary in life,” Wight said. “We’ve been bombarded with doom and gloom for the last six, eight weeks, whatever it is, and this is awesome. It brings a lot of people together.”

NASA hired SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to taxi astronauts to and from the space station, under contracts totalling $7 billion. Both companies launched their crew capsules last year with test dummies. SpaceX’s Dragon aced all of its objectives, while Boeing’s Starliner capsule ended up in the wrong orbit and was almost destroyed because of software errors.

As a result, the first Starliner flight carrying astronauts isn’t expected until next year.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Marcia Dunn, The Associated Press

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Two astronauts climb aboard SpaceX rocket for historic flight – CTV News

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CAPE CANAVERAL, FLA. —
Despite more storms in the forecast, two NASA astronauts climbed into their capsule Saturday for a second attempt at a history-making ride into orbit aboard a rocket ship designed and built by Elon Musk’s SpaceX company.

With the flight already delayed three days by bad weather, forecasters put the odds of acceptable conditions at 50-50 for the 3:22 p.m. liftoff of the 270-foot Falcon 9 in what would be the first launch of astronauts into orbit by a private company.

Their destination: the International Space Station, 250 miles above Earth.

It would also be NASA’s first human spaceflight launched from U.S. soil in nearly a decade.

NASA officials and others held out hope the mission would be a morale-booster amid the gloom of the coronavirus outbreak, which has killed over 360,000 people worldwide, including more than 100,000 Americans.

Veteran astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken pulled on their angular, white-and-black spacesuits with help from technicians wearing masks, gloves and black hoods that made them look like ninjas.

Before setting out for the launch pad in a gull-wing Tesla SUV — another Musk product — Behnken pantomimed a hug of his 6-year-old son, Theo, and said: “Are you going to listen to Mommy and make her life easy?” Hurley blew kisses to his 10-year-old son and wife.

SpaceX and NASA monitored the weather not just at Kennedy Space Center, where rain, thick clouds and the chance of lightning threatened another postponement, but all the way up the Eastern Seaboard and across the North Atlantic to Ireland. Waves and wind need to be within certain limits in case the astronauts have to make an emergency splashdown on the way to orbit.

Wednesday’s countdown of the rocket and its bullet-shaped Dragon capsule was halted at just under 17 minutes because of the threat of lightning.

Ever since the space shuttle was retired in 2011, NASA has relied on Russian spaceships launched from Kazakhstan to take U.S. astronauts to and from the space station.

“I would be lying to you if I told you I wasn’t nervous,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said before the launch attempt. “We want to do everything we can to minimize the risk, minimize the uncertainty, so that Bob and Doug will be safe.”

President Donald Trump and Vice-President Mike Pence planned to return for the second launch attempt.

Because of the coronavirus, NASA severely limited the number of employees, visitors and journalists allowed deep inside Kennedy Space Center, and the crowd was relatively small, at a few thousand. At the centre’s tourist complex, though, all 4,000 tickets were snapped up in a few hours.

The space agency urged people to stay safe and watch from home, and by NASA’s count, at least 1.14 million viewers followed the launch preparation online. But spectators also began lining the Cape Canaveral area’s beaches and roads. Signs along the main beach drag read, “Godspeed.”

Among the spectators was Neil Wight, a machinist from Buffalo, New York, who staked out a view of the launch pad from a park in Titusville.

“It’s pretty historically significant in my book, and a lot of other people’s books. With everything that’s going on in this country right now, it’s important that we do things extraordinary in life,” Wight said. “We’ve been bombarded with doom and gloom for the last six, eight weeks, whatever it is, and this is awesome. It brings a lot of people together.”

NASA hired SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 to taxi astronauts to and from the space station, under contracts totalling $7 billion. Both companies launched their crew capsules last year with test dummies. SpaceX’s Dragon aced all of its objectives, while Boeing’s Starliner capsule ended up in the wrong orbit and was almost destroyed because of software errors.

As a result, the first Starliner flight carrying astronauts isn’t expected until next year.

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