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Seems that Boeing has more major software problems, this time on its Crew Capsule. 


Multiple software errors doomed Boeing crew capsule test
by Staff Writers
Washington (AFP) Feb 8, 2020


Multiple software issues and a poor radio link doomed a test flight of Boeing's crew capsule late last year, NASA said Friday, revealing for the first time a glitch that could have destroyed the spaceship on its re-entry.

The Starliner's December 20 mission, an uncrewed test flight, was ended early when it failed to engage its thrusters on time, due to a previously reported faulty timer.

NASA said in a statement Friday that the problem arose because it incorrectly pulled time from its Atlas V launch rocket, creating an 11-hour mismatch.

The second problem was intermittent space-to-ground communications, impeding the flight control team's ability to command and control the vehicle.

A third issue was confirmed by NASA and Boeing for the first time: a coding error in the program that governs Starliner's preparation for reentry into Earth's atmosphere.

The error would have caused the service module, which contains the spacecraft's support systems and is supposed to detach prior to re-entry, to be pushed toward the crewed module.

This could have resulted in impact, destabilizing the ship or damaging its heat shield, said Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Boeing's Space and Launch division.

The error was caught and fixed via a software patch the night before landing, said John Mulholland, project manager for the Starliner.

Douglas Loverro, a senior NASA official, said the multiple errors pointed to "insufficient" oversight by his agency, but he also added: "It looks as if there could possibly be process issues at Boeing. And so, we want to understand what the culture is at Boeing, that may have led to that."

Starliner's failure was the latest serious setback for Boeing, which is still reeling from two fatal crashes of its 737 Max aircraft. The crashes, in October 2018 in Indonesia and in March 2019 in Ethiopia, claimed a total 346 lives.

The findings of an independent review into the latest failure will be ready in late February.

NASA officials have refused to be drawn on what it all means for the future of Starliner, which is scheduled to take its first astronauts to the International Space Station in the coming months.

Meanwhile, Boeing's space rival SpaceX is preparing for its first crewed flight with its Crew Dragon, likely in the second quarter, according to boss Elon Musk.

NASA has committed to pay the two companies $8 billion in return for six trips carrying four astronauts each to the ISS. The US has relied on Russian rockets to carry its crews to the space station since ending the Space Shuttle program in 2011.

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NASA commits to returning astronauts to the moon by 2024
by Brooks Hays
Washington DC (UPI) Feb 11, 2020

Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator, speaks at a State of NASA address at Stennis Space Center in Mississippi, introducing the agency's 2021 budget request and outlining it's priorities for the next decade.

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration plans to land the first woman and the next man on the moon by 2024.

"We are ushering in an unprecedented era of human spaceflight," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine, who heads America's space agency, said Monday while introducing the agency's latest budget request. At last year's "State of NASA" speech, Bridenstine said NASA was aiming to return astronauts to the moon by 2028. In the months between then and now, both President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence called on NASA to accelerate the timeline.

In the latest budget request, President Donald Trump called for a $25 billion NASA budget for 2021, a 12 percent increase over the previous fiscal year's budget.

"This is a 21-century budget worthy of 21st-century space exploration and one of the strongest NASA budgets in history," NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said during a State of NASA event unveiling the budget. "If the president's support for NASA wasn't clear before, it sure is now."

"Now we must deliver, it us up to us to deliver," Bridentstine said.

During the speech, delivered from Stennis Space Center, outside Bay St. Louis, Mississippi, Bridenstine highlighted the numerous programs funded in the president's latest budget request.

The request includes $3.3 billion for building the spacecraft needed to get humans to the moon as part of its Artemis program.

"2020 marks the first time we've had direct funding for a human landing system since the Apollo program," Bridenstine said.

The vehicles that will carry astronauts to the moon and beyond include NASA's heavy-lift Space Launch System and Orion deep-space capsule.

"The Space Launch System rocket is the foundation of our 21st century space exploration missions to the moon and to Mars," Bridenstine said.

Though Boeing remains NASA's prime contractor for the development and construction of the Space Launch System, Bridenstine insisted that the design and production of the heavy-lift, multistage rocket has involved contributions from hundreds of companies - small, medium and large - from all over the country.

"The SLS is in fact America's rocket," Bridenstine said.

The Orion crew capsule is one several payloads that NASA expects SLS to carry into space in the coming years.

"Orion is the first human spacecraft we've built for deep space missions in over a generation," the space agency's leader said.

In his speech, Bridenstine also touched on the financial commitment the budget makes to a variety of programs designed to produce technological innovations that could be used for operations on the lunar surface and eventually on Mars.

The administrator also detailed the latest budget request's emphasis on planetary science, including $415 million for the launch the James Webb Space Telescope, planned for 2021.

"It is going to see for the first time the first light in the history of the universe," Bridenstine said.

Before humans make it to Mars, NASA plans to send more rovers. The 2021 budget request includes $529 million for robotic Mars exploration, including the Mars 2020 rover mission.

"The Mars 2020 rover is also a very important mission that will rewrite science textbooks," Bridenstine said. "And it will include - and I love this part - the first ever helicopter to fly on another world."

The budget request also includes funds for research programs related to so-called "industries of the future" - technologies like artificial intelligence, quantum computing and advanced communications.

President Trump's budget request calls for the elimination of several Earth science and science education programs.

As the budget proposal makes its way through Congress, it is likely to be significantly tweaked. In addition to making alterations to the allocation of funds, changes to the budget made by Congress are likely to call for more details on the expected total cost of the Artemis program.

Congress could even push NASA to adopt a more conservative timeline for the agency's return to the moon.

Bridenstine said he will continue to push for Congress to support NASA's program priorities.

"Friends, we are the Artemis generation, and we are going," Bridenstine said to conclude Monday's address.

Source: United Press International

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1 hour ago, Kip Powick said:

 Why ??

 Many benefits. For example you can build a colony on the Moon for 1/10 of what it would cost to build a colony on Mars. On the Moon we can extract Helium-3, possibly the best candidate as fuel for controlled and sustainable Nuclear Fusion.  Lastly for the same reason the reason mankind has always wanted to explore what might be on the other side of the door.



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Boeing’s spacecraft test failure points to broader problems

February 7, 2020
Tim Fernholz
By Tim Fernholz


A Boeing spacecraft could have been destroyed by flawed onboard software if engineers had not reprogrammed it mid-flight, NASA officials said.

The Boeing Starliner performed an uncrewed test flight in December to prepare for its work ferrying US astronauts to the International Space Station. Starliner reached orbit, but it failed to rendezvous with the space station because its internal clock was off by 11 hours, which led it to miss the key moment to fire its engines.


This week, a NASA safety panel revealed a second software error that could have led to erroneous thruster firings “with the potential for a catastrophic spacecraft failure,” a member of the panel said. Boeing also had difficulty maintaining a communication link between the spacecraft in orbit and ground control, which made operating the autonomous vehicle more difficult.

The anomalies point towards broader problems with Boeing’s approach to designing and testing the vehicle.

“Breakdowns in the design and code phase inserted the original defects,” the US space agency said in a statement. “Additionally, breakdowns in the test and verification phase failed to identify the defects preflight despite their detectability…there were numerous instances where the Boeing software quality processes either should have or could have uncovered the defects.”

“It’s not just the specific issues that we discovered in this flight…the real problem is that we had numerous process escapes in the design, development, test cycle for software for Starliner,” Doug Loverro, the NASA official in charge of human spaceflight, said, using the engineering term for errors that should have been caught.


An Independent Review Team made up of NASA and Boeing staffers who didn’t work on the vehicle are still studying data from the test flight and expect to release a definitive report by March.

The test flight was a milestone in NASA’s commercial crew program, which has hired Boeing and SpaceX to build and operate spacecraft to carry astronauts to the International Space Station. SpaceX recently completed the bulk of its development work and could fly astronauts in a crewed flight test as soon as April. Boeing’s timeline remains uncertain.

Code Red

While the December launch of the Boeing Starliner onboard a ULA Atlas V rocket went swimmingly, engineers realized there was trouble shortly after it separated from the rocket and failed to fire its engines.


At the same time, ground controllers were unable to communicate with the vehicle for several minutes due to problems with its communications link. While the root cause of that failure has not yet been identified, interference from mobile phone towers could be the culprit.

As Boeing and NASA engineers worked to figure out what went wrong in the vehicle’s million-plus lines of code, they came across the second error, in the code controlling how the Starliner capsule separates from its “service module,” a collection of equipment discarded before re-entry. The bad code could have caused the capsule to collide with the service module, possibly destroying it or damaging its heat shield, which would make returning to Earth a suicide mission.

“Nothing good can come from those two spacecraft bumping,” Jim Chilton, a Boeing senior vice president, told reporters.

Boeing’s engineers were able to pull an all-nighter and update the code at about 5 am the next day, just hours before the Starliner performed its separation maneuver. The vehicle was able to successfully re-enter the atmosphere and fly safely back to Earth.

Reviewed anew

Boeing said last week it would take a $410 million charge to its earnings due to the test failure, which could include the cost of repeating the demonstration flight. NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said that the agency had not yet decided if a second uncrewed flight will be necessary.


The space agency did say it would reverse a previous decision and launch a broad organizational safety review of Boeing. In 2018, the space agency said it would perform “invasive” safety reviews on both contractors. But only SpaceX completed a full safety survey, while NASA only interviewed select Boeing officials.

Now NASA says it will perform “individual employee interviews with a sampling from a cross section of personnel, including senior managers, mid-level management and supervision, and engineers and technicians at multiple sites.”

The decision was made because of the test flight anomaly and what it revealed about the company’s processes, but Loverro also referenced “press reports we’ve seen from other parts of Boeing,” likely referring to the software issues that led to the grounding of the company’s 737 Max airliners.

“It looks as if there could possibly be process issues at Boeing, and we want to understand what the culture is at Boeing that may have led to that,” he said.

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NASA science and cargo head to Space Station
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Feb 17, 2020

Stock image

A Northrop Grumman Cygnus resupply spacecraft is on its way to the International Space Station with about 7,500 pounds of science investigations and cargo after launching at 3:21 p.m. EST Saturday from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia.

The spacecraft launched on an Antares 230+ rocket from the Virginia Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport's Pad 0A at Wallops and is scheduled to arrive at the space station at about 4:05 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 18. Coverage of the spacecraft's approach and arrival will begin at 2:30 a.m. on NASA Television and the agency's website.

Expedition 62 astronaut Andrew Morgan of NASA will use the space station's robotic arm to capture Cygnus, and NASA's Jessica Meir will monitor telemetry during rendezvous, capture, and installation on the Unity module's Earth-facing port. The spacecraft is scheduled to stay at the space station until May.

This delivery, Northrop Grumman's 13th cargo flight to the space station, the second under its Commercial Resupply Services 2 contract with NASA and designated NG-13, will support dozens of new and existing investigations.

Included in the scientific investigations Cygnus is delivering to the space station are:

Better Tissue and Cell Culturing in Space
Mobile SpaceLab, a tissue and cell-culturing facility, offers investigators a quick-turnaround platform to perform sophisticated microgravity biology experiments. Such experiments are critical for determining how microgravity affects human physiology and identifying ways to mitigate negative effects.

A Close-up View
The Mochii investigation provides an initial demonstration of a new miniature scanning electron microscope with spectroscopy. Mochii will demonstrate real-time, on-site imaging and measurements of micro- and nanostructures aboard the space station. This capability could accelerate answers to many scientific inquiries and mission decisions and serve the public as a powerful and unique microgravity research platform.

Examining Bone Loss in Microgravity
Astronauts experience bone loss in orbit, stemming from the lack of gravity acting on their bones. OsteoOmics investigates the molecular mechanisms that dictate this bone loss by examining osteoblasts, cells in the body that form bone, and osteoclasts, which dissolve bone. A better understanding of these mechanisms could lead to more effective prevention of astronaut bone loss during space missions.

Fighting Bacteria with Phages
Phage Evolution examines the effects of microgravity and radiation exposure on phage, viruses that destroy bacteria without harming human cells, and bacterial host interactions, including phage specificity for a bacterial host and host resistance to specific phages. A better understanding of the effects of microgravity and cosmic radiation on bacteriophages and hosts could result in significant developments for phage technology, ultimately helping protect the health of astronauts on future missions.

(Do Not) Light My Fire
The Spacecraft Fire Experiment-IV (Saffire-IV) investigation examines fire development and growth in different materials and environmental conditions, fire detection and monitoring, and post-fire cleanup capabilities. Saffire-IV contributes to fire safety efforts in similar environments on Earth, from submarines to mines, and helps improve general understanding and modeling of fire phenomena.

These are just a few of the hundreds of investigations currently being conducted aboard the orbiting laboratory in the areas of biology and biotechnology, physical sciences, and Earth and space science. Advances in these areas will help to keep astronauts healthy during long-duration space travel and demonstrate technologies for future human and robotic exploration beyond low-Earth orbit to the Moon and Mars through NASA's Artemis program.

This is the second time two Cygnus spacecraft will be in flight at the same time, as the NG-12 vehicle remains in orbit after departing from the station on Jan. 31. The Cygnus spacecraft will remain at the space station until May before it disposes of several thousand pounds of trash through its fiery reentry into Earth's atmosphere.

The Cygnus NG-13 spacecraft for this space station resupply mission is named in honor of U.S. Air Force Maj. Robert Lawrence, the first African American astronaut selected by any program, specifically chosen for the Air Force's Manned Orbital Laboratory Program in June 1967. Lawrence died in an F-104 Starfighter aircraft accident at Edwards Air Force Base, California six months later at the age of 32.

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US negotiating to buy one or two seats on Soyuz
by Staff Writers
Moscow (Sputnik) Feb 17, 2020


The United States is negotiating to buy one or two seats on upcoming Russian Soyuz flights to the International Space Station (ISS) to ensure the continued presence of US astronauts on it, a National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) official said.

"NASA intends to purchase one or two additional Soyuz seats to ensure continuous US presence aboard the International Space Station," NASA Johnson Space Centre Public Affairs Officer Dan Huot said on Friday. "Negotiations are ongoing."

The spokesman said that the negotiated deal meets recommendations of US advisory committees, including the Government Accountability Office, and aims to provide additional back-up capability in case US crew flights are delayed.

Huot's comments followed Roscosmos Director Dmitri Rogozin's comments on Thursday that NASA was seeking to purchase an unnamed number of seats on upcoming manned Russian flights to the ISS.

The United States currently does not have any human-rated space booster of its own operational. NASA's last purchased seat on a Soyuz is the one to be used by astronaut Chris Cassidy in April 2020.

According to Sputnik's sources, the spring launch is scheduled for April 9, while the fall launch will take place on 14 October.

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Mike Pence Says US to Return Astronauts to Space Using American-Built Rockets Before Summer
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (Sputnik) Feb 20, 2020

The Boeing and SpaceX teams with their respective space ships.

US astronauts will launch into space from American soil using American-built rockets before the summer, Vice President Mike Pence told workers at NASA's Langley Research Centre on Wednesday.

"Before we even get to the summer... the United States will return American astronauts to space on American rockets from American soil. We're going back and we're going back from the USA", Pence said.

But of two companies hired by NASA to develop rockets and crew capsules to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station, only Space X has a system eligible for NASA certification to fly humans, having successfully completed a series of uncrewed test flights.

Space X's competitor, Boeing, failed to reach the Space Station with its Starliner spacecraft in a recent unscrewed test due to software glitches, with company officials unable to say when the system would be ready to fly again.

Since the US shuttle program ended in 2011, the United States has purchased seats on Russia's Soyuz space system for NASA astronauts to travel to and from the space station.

Source: RIA Novosti

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If the sky is going to fall.

How to deflect an asteroid
by Jennifer Chu for MIT News
Boston MA (SPX) Feb 20, 2020

MIT engineers devise a decision map to identify the best mission type to deflect an incoming asteroid.

On April 13, 2029, an icy chunk of space rock, wider than the Eiffel Tower is tall, will streak by Earth at 30 kilometers per second, grazing the planet's sphere of geostationary satellites. It will be the closest approach by one of the largest asteroids crossing Earth's orbit in the next decade.

Observations of the asteroid, known as 99942 Apophis, for the Egyptian god of chaos, once suggested that its 2029 flyby would take it through a gravitational keyhole - a location in Earth's gravity field that would tug the asteroid's trajectory such that on its next flyby, in the year 2036, it would likely make a devastating impact.

Thankfully, more recent observations have confirmed that the asteroid will sling by Earth without incident in both 2029 and 2036. Nevertheless, most scientists believe it is never too early to consider strategies for deflecting an asteroid if one were ever on a crash course with our home planet.

Now MIT researchers have devised a framework for deciding which type of mission would be most successful in deflecting an incoming asteroid. Their decision method takes into account an asteroid's mass and momentum, its proximity to a gravitational keyhole, and the amount of warning time that scientists have of an impending collision - all of which have degrees of uncertainty, which the researchers also factor in to identify the most successful mission for a given asteroid.

The researchers applied their method to Apophis, and Bennu, another near-Earth asteroid which is the target of OSIRIS-REx, an operational NASA mission that plans to return a sample of Bennu's surface material to Earth in 2023. REXIS, an instrument designed and built by students at MIT, is also part of this mission and its task is to characterize the abundance of chemical elements at the surface.

In a paper appearing this month in the journal Acta Astronautica, the researchers use their decision map to lay out the type of mission that would likely have the most success in deflecting Apophis and Bennu, in various scenarios in which the asteroids may be headed toward a gravitational keyhole. They say the method could be used to design the optimal mission configuration and campaign to deflect a potentially hazardous near-Earth asteroid.

"People have mostly considered strategies of last-minute deflection, when the asteroid has already passed through a keyhole and is heading toward a collision with Earth," says Sung Wook Paek, lead author of the study and a former graduate student in MIT's Department of Aeronautics and Astronautics. "I'm interested in preventing keyhole passage well before Earth impact. It's like a preemptive strike, with less mess."

Paek's co-authors at MIT are Olivier de Weck, Jeffrey Hoffman, Richard Binzel, and David Miller.

Deflecting a planet-killer
In 2007, NASA concluded in a report submitted to the U.S. Congress that in the event that an asteroid were headed toward Earth, the most effective way to deflect it would be to launch a nuclear bomb into space. The force of its detonation would blast the asteroid away, though the planet would then have to contend with any nuclear fallout. The use of nuclear weapons to mitigate asteroid impacts remains a controversial issue in the planetary defense community.

The second best option was to send up a "kinetic impactor" - a spacecraft, rocket, or other projectile that, if aimed at just the right direction, with adequate speed, should collide with the asteroid, transfer some fraction of its momentum, and veer it off course.

"The basic physics principle is sort of like playing billiards," Paek explains.

For any kinetic impactor to be successful, however, de Weck, a professor of aeronautics and astronautics and engineering systems, says the properties of the asteroid, such as its mass, momentum, trajectory, and surface composition must be known "as precisely as possible." That means that, in designing a deflection mission, scientists and mission managers need to take uncertainty into account.

"Does it matter if the probability of success of a mission is 99.9 percent or only 90 percent? When it comes to deflecting a potential planet-killer, you bet it does," de Weck says. "Therefore we have to be smarter when we design missions as a function of the level of uncertainty. No one has looked at the problem this way before."

Closing a keyhole
Paek and his colleagues developed a simulation code to identify the type of asteroid deflection mission that would have the best possibility of success, given an asteroid's set of uncertain properties.

The missions they considered include a basic kinetic impactor, in which a projectile is shot into space to nudge an asteroid off course. Other variations involved sending a scout to first measure the asteroid to hone the specs of a projectile that would be sent up later, or sending two scouts, one to measure the asteroid and the other to push the asteroid slightly off course before a larger projectile is subsequently launched to make the asteroid miss Earth with near certainty.

The researchers fed into the simulation specific variables such as the asteroid's mass, momentum, and trajectory, as well as the range of uncertainty in each of these variables. Most importantly, they factored in an asteroid's proximity to a gravitational keyhole, as well as the amount of time scientists have before an asteroid passes through the keyhole.

"A keyhole is like a door - once it's open, the asteroid will impact Earth soon after, with high probability," Paek says.

The researchers tested their simulation on Apophis and Bennu, two of only a handful of asteroids for which the locations of their gravitational keyholes with respect to Earth are known. They simulated various distances between each asteroid and their respective keyhole, and also calculated for each distance a "safe harbor" region where an asteroid would have to be deflected so that it would avoid both an impact with Earth and passing through any other nearby keyhole.

They then evaluated which of the three main mission types would be most successful at deflecting the asteroid into a safe harbor, depending on the amount of time scientists have to prepare.

For instance, if Apophis will pass through a keyhole in five years or more, then there is enough time to send two scouts - one to measure the asteroid's dimensions and the other to nudge it slightly off track as a test - before sending a main impactor. If keyhole passage occurs within two to five years, there may be time to send one scout to measure the asteroid and tune the parameters of a larger projectile before sending the impactor up to divert the asteroid. If Apophis passes through its keyhole within one Earth year or less, Paek says it may be too late.

"Even a main impactor may not be able to reach the asteroid within this timeframe," Paek says.

Bennu is a similar case, although scientists know a bit more about its material composition, which means that it may not be necessary to send up investigatory scouts before launching a projectile.

With the team's new simulation tool, Peak plans to estimate the success of other deflection missions in the future.

"Instead of changing the size of a projectile, we may be able to change the number of launches and send up multiple smaller spacecraft to collide with an asteroid, one by one. Or we could launch projectiles from the moon or use defunct satellites as kinetic impactors," Paek says. "We've created a decision map which can help in prototyping a mission."

Research Report: "Optimization and decision-making framework for multi-staged asteroid deflection campaigns under epistemic uncertainties."

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28 minutes ago, Marshall said:

Space X's competitor, Boeing, failed to reach the Space Station with its Starliner spacecraft in a recent unscrewed test due to software glitches, with company officials unable to say when the system would be ready to fly again

 No "Proof" readers I guess...............or they just hired a recent US High School graduate.

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9 minutes ago, Kip Powick said:

 No "Proof" readers I guess...............or they just hired a recent US High School graduate.

One does question if the test was "unscrewed", why it failed.  ?

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Washington DC - May 12-14, 2020
Boeing buying Russian components for Starliner
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (Sputnik) Feb 26, 2020

In development for nearly a decade, the Starliner programme was Boeing's answer to the decommissioning of the Space Shuttle programme in 2011, which left NASA and allied space agencies dependent on Russian Soyuz rockets to take crews to the International Space Station.

Boeing is buying Russian-made power converters for its new Starliner manned capsule programme, the company's space division has confirmed.

Earlier, Roscosmos Chief Dmitry Rogozin said he was "surprised" after finding out that a private company in Voronezh, a city about 465 km south of Moscow, was producing parts for the Starliner programme.

Responding to a question on the matter by Reuters space reporter Joey Roulette, Boeing Space confirmed that "#Starliner uses a Power Converter Unit provided by Zao Orbita in Voronezh, Russia." The component is said to allow power to be transferred from the ISS to Starliner during docking, an described as a part with a proven track record of 20 years of use aboard the ISS. "It was reduced in mass and size to fit the needs of #Starliner and chosen for its mission assurance and customer reliability," Boeing Space clarified.

In development since 2010, the Boeing Starliner is a $4.2 billion next-gen crew capsule with a capacity of up to 7 astronauts, a free-flight operating capability of up to 60 hours, and the ability to remain docked in orbit for up to 210 days. It is designed to be launched by Atlas V non-reusable rockets, which use Russian-made RD-180 engines developed by NPO Energomash.

Boeing is in a race with SpaceX and its Crew Dragon to develop the next capsule to take Western astronauts to the ISS. SpaceX plans to make the first manned flight of the Crew Dragon in the second quarter of 2020, and has its own $2.6 billion crew capsule contract with NASA.

The Starliner set off on its first test flight to the ISS in December, but docking was canceled after it failed to execute an orbit-insertion burn on time due to a glitch in its software. Earlier this month, NASA revealed that the capsule could have collided with a service module designed to separate in orbit due to a second glitch. Starliner landed safely in New Mexico on December 22.

Created in the immediate aftermath of WWII as Electrical Repair Plant No.17, Orbita was reorganized for work in the space sector at the dawn of the space age, developing multiple critical components for the Soviet space programme, including the unified power supply system for the Mir space station prior to its launch in 1986, and a unique turbogenerator power supply system for the Energiya-Buran Soviet space shuttle. The company has been part of the ISS project since its inception in 1996, creating and manufacturing devices for the station's power supply system. Orbita signed a contract with Boeing to create a custom power converter unit for the Starliner in 2013.

Source: RIA Novosti


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Optimised flight routes for climate-friendly air transport
by Staff Writers
Braunschweig, Germany (SPX) Feb 24, 2020

The focus is on innovative guidance concepts for air traffic as well as optimised taxiing and flight operations.

On 19 and 20 February 2020, the new project 'Greener Air Traffic Operations' (GreAT) held its launch event at the German Aerospace Center (Deutsches Zentrum fur Luft- und Raumfahrt; DLR) Institute of Flight Guidance in Braunschweig, Germany. This European-Chinese research and innovation project aims to reduce the impact of air transport on climate change.

The project focuses on new strategies aimed at greener flight routings. These will be achieved through innovative air traffic guidance concepts and optimised operations on airports, in the terminal control area and during cruising flight. The concepts will consider various factors such as atmospheric conditions and real-time airspace constraints.

An intense air-ground data exchange is one of the pillars of this approach. In contrast to previous optimisation strategies, GreAT will not focus solely on efficiency and capacity. Instead its focal point is the reduction of the environmental impact of air transport, a crucial part of future air traffic management.

Flexible airspace concepts
The GreAT project will be conducted in collaboration with seven European and six Chinese partners. Researchers will investigate optimisation strategies for short-haul flights on the European side and long-haul flights on the Chinese side.

The partners will develop and evaluate more flexible airspace structures as well as more predictable guidance principles, supported by next-generation assistance systems. This will allow for a better compromise between the shortest routes and conflict-free traffic pre-planning. In addition to initial conceptual work, comprehensive validation activities are planned, which will make use of the simulation capabilities and expertise that are available in the project consortium. The knowledge gained during this work will be exchanged and published to further support research and development after the project has been completed.

Broad European-Chinese cooperation
The official project kick-off was attended by all the European members of the consortium. During the two-day meeting, the international partners planned and communicated the project activities and discussed the steps needed to achieve the milestones on time.

In addition to DLR, which is acting as project coordinator, the consortium consists of HungaroControl - Hungarian Air Navigation Services (Hungary), Universidad Politecnica de Madrid (UPM, Spain), L-UP (France), Royal Dutch Airlines (Koninklijke Luchtvaart Maatschappij; KLM, Netherlands), the Italian Aerospace Research Centre (Centro Italiano Ricerche Aerospaziali; CIRA, Italy), and Pildo Labs (Spain) on the European side.

On the Chinese side, the Chinese Aeronautical Radio Electronics Research Institute (CARERI), the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), the Civil Aviation University of China (CAUC), the China Electronics Technology Avionics Company (CETCA), the Nanjing Research Institute of Electronic Engineering (NRIEE) and the Nanjing University of Aeronautics and Astronautics (NUAA) are participating in the project.

An advisory board will support the project. It consists of the air navigation service providers Deutsche Flugsicherung GmbH (Germany), Austro Control (Austria) and LFV (Sweden), together with the suppliers Harris-Orthogon GmbH and ATRiCS Advanced Traffic Solutions GmbH (both Germany), the International Federation of Air Traffic Controllers' Associations (IFATCA) and Lufthansa (Germany).

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Jet stream not getting 'wavier' despite Arctic warming
by Staff Writers
Exeter UK (SPX) Feb 24, 2020

The polar jet stream.

Rapid Arctic warming has not led to a "wavier" jet stream around the mid-latitudes in recent decades, pioneering new research has shown.

Scientists from the University of Exeter have studied the extent to which Arctic amplification - the faster rate of warming in the Arctic compared to places farther south - has affected the fluctuation of the jet stream's winding course over the North Hemisphere.

Recent studies have suggested the warming Arctic region has led to a "wavier" jet stream - which can lead to extreme weather conditions striking the US and Europe.

However, the new study by Dr Russell Blackport and Professor James Screen, shows that Arctic warming does not drive a more meandering jet stream.

Instead, they believe any link is more likely to be a result of random fluctuations in the jet stream influencing Arctic temperatures, rather than the other way around.

The study is published in leading journal Science Advances on Wednesday 19 February 2020.

Dr Blackport, a Research Fellow in Mathematics and lead author of the study, said: "While there does appear to be a link between a wavier jet stream and Arctic warming in year-to-year and decade-to-decade variability, there has not been a long-term increase in waviness in response to the rapidly warming Arctic."

Scientists have studied whether the jet stream's meandering course across the Northern Hemisphere is amplified by climate change in recent years.

For about two decades, the jet stream - a powerful band of westerly winds across the mid-latitudes - was observed to have a "wavier" flow, which coincided with greater Arctic warming through climate change.

These waves have caused extreme weather conditions to strike mainland Europe and the US, bringing intense cold air that leads to extreme cold weather.

In this new study, Dr Blackport and Professor Screen studied not only climate model simulations but also the observed conditions going back 40 years.

They found that the previously reported trend toward a wavier circulation during autumn and winter has reversed in recent years, despite continued Arctic amplification.

This reversal has resulted in no long-term trends in waviness, in agreement with climate model simulations, which also suggest little change in "waviness" in response to strong Arctic warming.

The results, the scientists say, strongly suggest that the observed and simulated link between jet stream "waviness" and Arctic temperatures do not represent a causal effect of Arctic amplification on the jet stream.

Professor Screen, an Associate Professor in Climate Science at Exeter added: "The well-publicised idea that Arctic warming is leading to a wavier jet stream just does not hold up to scrutiny.

"With the benefit of ten more years of data and model experiments, we find no evidence of long-term changes in waviness despite on-going Arctic warming."

Insignificant effect of Arctic amplification on the amplitude of mid-latitude atmospheric waves is published in Science Advances.

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Space startup Astra fails to launch rocket on last day of DARPA launch challenge
by Paul Brinkmann
Washington DC (UPI) Mar 02, 2020


California-based space company Astra ended an attempt to launch a rocket Monday from Alaska, ending the government-sponsored DARPA Launch Challenge with no prize winner, according to the agency's chief of communications.

The challenge was designed to develop a capability for the U.S. military to send small satellites into space quickly -- speeding up the turnaround time from design and conception to launch day.

But the remaining finalist in the contest, Astra, was plagued by bad weather for days at the pad on Kodiak Island.

The cancellation means Astra won't get any of the $12 million it was hoping for, according to DARPA communications chief Jared Adams. DARPA stands for the U.S. Department of Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency.

If Astra still plans to launch the rocket, it will need new permits on a strictly private basis, Adams said.

Chris Kemp, Astra's founder and CEO, indicated the company would move ahead with launch plans for the rocket.

"We decided it would be better to scrub the launch and try to get another day. Winning the challenge would have been fantastic today, but our objective really is to reach orbit in as few flights as possible," Kemp said.

Adams said DARPA considers the challenge a success because Astra reached launch day with efficient, lean launch technology, which still can be used and developed. Similar DARPA challenges have ended with no prize money, but helped to develop technology, he said.

"The goals we set forth for the Launch Challenge are incredibly hard. The preferred outcome was to see Astra accomplish two successful launches from two different locations within a short period of time," Adams said.

The launch had been delayed for days first because of blizzard conditions and then high winds at Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska.

On Monday, the launch had been set for 3:30 p.m. EST, but launch personnel first held the liftoff for about 25 minutes to avoid a possible collision with an "object in orbit" that turned out to be the International Space Station.

Then, just seconds before liftoff, a hold was called by the guidance, navigation and control officer, citing only "off-nominal data." The company announced the cancellation just before 6 p.m.

The launch was to be the first of two planned, with a $2 million prize. If successful, Astra would advance to a second launch attempt with a prize of $10 million.

"We're trying to make rockets a lot more like people build cars," Astra co-founder Adam London said. "We are excited to show ... what we think to be a very responsive, very portable launch infrastructure."

As a startup, Astra had previously conducted two launch tests with rockets that didn't reach orbit. One of those ended abruptly, but the company didn't release information about it.

Astra had only weeks to prepare after getting the challenge details. That included what kind of small satellites, or CubeSats, would be launched, and what type of facilities would be provided and the intended orbit, DARPA officials said.

Astra's rocket is relatively small at just over 38 feet compared to SpaceX's Falcon 9, which is more than 229 feet high. The Electron rocket used by another small launch company, Rocket Lab, is 56 feet high.

Astra, based in Alameda, Calif., says it can carry up to 330 pounds into low orbit. For the challenge launch, it was supposed to carry three CubeSats and one space beacon weighing a few pounds each.

Two of the CubeSats were designed by the University of South Florida for its ARCE-1 mission, designed to demonstrate how small satellites can communicate with each other to facilitate tracking and managing large satellite constellations.

According to DARPA, the payload had included a Department of Defense Prometheus CubeSat to improve the responsiveness of relaying military tactical data.

The challenge drew more than 50 initial entrants. Astra was the only one remaining.

Part of the challenge was to demonstrate the ability to launch from another pad quickly, within weeks.

Astra includes former NASA and SpaceX executives, led by Chris Kemp, a former NASA chief technology officer.

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SpaceX Starship prototype explodes in test again
by Paul Brinkmann
Washington DC (UPI) Mar 02, 2020


Another prototype of SpaceX's Starship rocket exploded during a pressure test at the company's construction yard in Boca Chica, Texas. It was the second such explosion at the Texas site in the past four months.

It wasn't clear if the company knew it would explode, but such testing is designed to find the structural limits of rocket components. SpaceX founder Elon Musk laughed it off on Twitter after posting a video of the Friday night incident.

"It's fine, we'll just buff it out," Musk tweeted.

The tests are done using supercooled liquid. Images captured by independent videographers from outside the plant -- LabPadre and SPadre on YouTube -- showed the bottom of the rocket test article dumping vapor from the liquid before the structure shot up into the air in a bigger cloud of vapor.

The company previously tested a similar structure to failure in November.

SpaceX has been working toward flight design for the stainless steel rocket, according to Musk.

In November, Musk said he hoped to reach Earth orbit with a Starship prototype in about six months, with human passengers by next year. The company has plans to go to the moon and Mars, and to use Starship for planetary commercial flights.

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Axiom Space plans first-ever fully private human spaceflight mission to International Space Station
by Staff Writers
Houston TX (SPX) Mar 06, 2020

Axiom plans to offer professional and private astronaut flights to ISS at a rate of up to two per year to align with flight opportunities as they are made available by NASA, while simultaneously constructing its own privately funded space station.

Axiom Space announced it is planning history's first fully private human spaceflight to the International Space Station. Axiom has signed a contract with SpaceX for a Crew Dragon flight which will transport a commander professionally trained by Axiom alongside three private astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The mission, set to launch as soon as the second half of 2021, will allow the crew to live aboard the ISS and experience at least eight days of microgravity and views of Earth that can only be fully appreciated in the large, venerable station.

"This history-making flight will represent a watershed moment in the march toward universal and routine access to space," Axiom CEO Michael Suffredini said. "This will be just the first of many missions to ISS to be completely crewed and managed by Axiom Space - a first for a commercial entity. Procuring the transportation marks significant progress toward that goal, and we're glad to be working with SpaceX in this effort."

This is the first of Axiom's proposed "precursor missions" to the ISS envisioned under its 2016 Space Act Agreement (SAA) with NASA. Discussions with NASA are underway to establish additional enabling agreements for the private astronaut missions to ISS.

Axiom plans to offer professional and private astronaut flights to ISS at a rate of up to two per year to align with flight opportunities as they are made available by NASA, while simultaneously constructing its own privately funded space station.

"Since 2012, SpaceX has been delivering cargo to the International Space Station in partnership with NASA and later this year, we will fly NASA astronauts for the first time," said SpaceX President and Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell. "Now, thanks to Axiom and their support from NASA, privately crewed missions will have unprecedented access to the space station, furthering the commercialization of space and helping usher in a new era of human exploration."

With its team's vast experience in human spaceflight, Axiom serves as a one-stop shop overseeing all elements of its missions. In addition to contracting with SpaceX for a Crew Dragon vehicle to transport its crew to the ISS, Axiom's turnkey service for the mission - two days in transit and at least eight days aboard the ISS - includes training, mission planning, hardware development, life support, medical support, crew provisions, hardware and safety certifications, on-orbit operations and overall mission management.

NASA recently selected Axiom's proposal to attach its space station modules to the ISS beginning in the second half of 2024, ultimately creating a new 'Axiom Segment' which will expand the station's usable and habitable volume. When the ISS reaches its retirement date, the Axiom complex will detach and operate as a free-flying commercial space station.

By serving the market for immediate access to space while building the future platform for a global user base, Axiom is leading the development and settlement of low Earth orbit now and into the future.

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Sounds all too familiar when you review the MAX problems.

NASA investigation finds 61 corrective actions for Boeing after failed Starliner spacecraft mission

  • Boeing said the investigation found about 61 “corrective actions” for the company’s Starliner spacecraft, which it has been developing to fly NASA astronauts.
  • “This was a close call ... we could have lost a spacecraft twice during this mission,” NASA associate administrator Doug Loverro said.
  • Boeing already has funds set aside to do another test flight, as it took a $410 million charge specific to the Starliner program in the fourth-quarter.
Here’s what went wrong with the Boeing Starliner spacecraft

The National Aeronautics and Space Administration’s investigation into Boeing’s failed December spaceflight came up with a long list of corrections needed before the company flies again.

Boeing said Friday that the investigation found about 61 “corrective actions” for the company’s Starliner spacecraft, which it has been developing to fly NASA astronauts. NASA associate administrator Doug Loverro told reporters on a conference call that he expects it “will take several months” for Boeing to work through the list.

“This was a close call. We could have lost a spacecraft twice during this mission,” Loverro said.

The 61 recommendations are not each individual problems with the spacecraft, Boeing said, as there are three primary technical and design issues that the company is addressing. However, Loverro noted that does not mean there are only three problems with Starliner. He said there are more issues, although he wasn’t sure of a specific number identified by investigators.

The aerospace giant planned to fly NASA astronauts on Starliner this year. In December, Boeing conducted what was supposed to be one of the spacecraft’s last tests. But the craft did not dock with the space station after a software issue during the launch caused Starliner’s autonomous flight-control system to misfire, putting Starliner in the wrong orbit.

The key unknown remains whether NASA will require Boeing redo the orbital test flight, as the company previously expected its next flight would have astronauts on board. But, although the investigation is complete, neither the agency or Boeing were confident about when the next test flight will happen.

“Will we require a second OFT? Quite frankly, we don’t know,” Loverro said. “We are still a way away from that, so I can’t even give you an idea of schedule.”

Regardless, Boeing already has funds set aside to do another test flight.The company revealed during its fourth-quarter results on Jan. 29 that it took a $410 million charge, in case another uncrewed flight is determined necessary.

“Boeing stands ready to repeat,” Boeing senior vice president Jim Chilton said.

In the meantime, NASA said it will embed more software experts into Boeing’s Starliner team, to try to help correct the issues found. The agency in January said Boeing would review about one million lines of software code after the company disclosed a second software issue that could have been catastrophic.

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