Monday, 24 February, 2020

Boeing's spacecraft to land Sunday after off course in orbit

Rosie the Astronaut is ready to fly with Boeing’s Starliner to Space Station United Launch Alliance Atlas V Rocket Arrive at Cape Canaveral Launch Pad
Wilbert Douglas | 23 December, 2019, 00:40

It's been almost nine years since NASA astronauts have launched from the U.S. The last time was July 8, 2011, when Atlantis - now on display at Kennedy Space Center - made the final space shuttle flight.

This the latest delay for NASA in its quest to fly astronauts to the worldwide space station.

Today's launch is scheduled for 6:36 AM EST (3:35 AM PST) and will take off from Florida's Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The three people selected for that prospective flight, NASA astronauts Michael Fincke and Nicole Mann and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson, were present at Florida's Kennedy Space Center on November 21 when the Starliner for the uncrewed mission was transported to the launch pad.


Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Boeing's space and launch division, told reporters that "we started the clock at the wrong time". The landing itself is also significant because it's the first time a capsule made in the USA has landed on land after returning from space ever - earlier American capsule spacecraft like Mercury, Gemini and the Apollo command module all splashed down on water. These are just the latest setbacks, and NASA is running out of guaranteed Soyuz seats. The Commercial Crew Program is supporting the development of crewed spacecraft from Boeing and SpaceX that will free NASA from reliance on Russian Federation. After Starliner separated from the Atlas V rocket, it believed it was in a different segment of the mission than it really was.

But because of the mishap, the station docking was scrapped, and Boeing and NASA made a decision to bring the spacecraft home as soon as possible.

NASA and Boeing officials said on a Saturday conference call they are still investigating the causes of the failure - and that the spacecraft's challenges were not over.


Boeing is competing with SpaceX to be the first American company to provide commercial crew capabilities to NASA.

Boeing and SpaceX are already more than two years behind schedule getting USA astronauts back in space. Shortly after, however, NASA's live coverage of the launch appeared to go down and Boeing put out a statement that the spaceship was dealing with an "off-nominal insertion" but maintained it was "in a safe and stable configuration". We might still get some useful data on the operation of the vehicle before it returns to Earth.


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