SpaceX, Boeing & Firefly File FCC Applications for Fall Flights

Starship hopper under construction at Boca Chica. (Credit: SpaceX)

SpaceX has applied for a temporary Federal Communications Commission (FCC) license to fly its Starship prototype to an altitude of 20 km (12.4 miles) from its Boca Chica test site in Texas.

The approval would be valid for hops from Oct. 11, 2020 to April 11, 2021. Starship prototypes have flown to an altitude of 150 meters from Boca Chica.

Boeing has filed for a FCC license for its second Starliner orbital flight test. The application covers a six-month period from Nov. 1, 2020 to May 1, 2021.

The uncrewed Starliner test is a repeat of a flight that went awry last December. The spacecraft failed to dock with the space station due to software and communications problems.

Firefly Aerospace has filed for approval for the maiden flight of its Firefly Alpha booster from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California. The approval would be valid from Nov. 21, 2020 until May 21, 2021.

Apha is designed to loft 1 metric ton into low Earth orbit and 630 kg into a 500 km sun synchronous orbit at a dedicated mission cost of $15 million.

Boeing’s Starliner Flight Scheduled for No Earlier Than December

Starliner OFT-1 capsule after landing at White Sands Missile Range. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA and Boeing continue to make progress toward the company’s second uncrewed flight test of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft prior to flying astronauts to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The Commercial Crew Program currently is targeting no earlier than December 2020 for launch of the uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) pending hardware readiness, flight software qualification, and launch vehicle and space station manifest priorities.

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NASA Astronaut Jeanette Epps Joins First Operational Boeing Crew Mission to Space Station

Jeanette Epps (Credit: NASA)

HOUSTON (NASA PR) — NASA has assigned astronaut Jeanette Epps to NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 mission, the first operational crewed flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on a mission to the International Space Station.

Epps will join NASA astronauts Sunita Williams and Josh Cassada for a six-month expedition planned for a launch in 2021 to the orbiting space laboratory. The flight will follow NASA certification after a successful uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 and Crew Flight Test with astronauts.

The spaceflight will be the first for Epps, who earned a bachelor’s degree in physics in 1992 from LeMoyne College in her hometown of Syracuse, New York. She completed a master’s degree in science in 1994 and a doctorate in aerospace engineering in 2000, both from the University of Maryland, College Park.

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NASA and Boeing Complete Orbital Flight Test Reviews

Starliner OFT-1 capsule after landing at White Sands Missile Range. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (NASA PR) — NASA and Boeing have completed major reviews of the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test in December 2019 and are continuing with preparations to refly the test, designated Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2), to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

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NASA to Provide Boeing Commercial Crew Update on Tuesday

Starliner OFT-1 capsule after landing at White Sands Missile Range. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA will host a media teleconference at 2:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, July 7, to discuss the outcome of its High Visibility Close Call review of the December 2019 uncrewed Orbital Flight Test of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft.

Participants in the briefing will be:

  • Kathy Lueders, associate administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate 
  • Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program

Audio of the teleconference will stream live online at: 

https://www.nasa.gov/live

Boeing was able to complete a number of test objectives during the December flight, but was unable to reach its planned orbit and dock to the International Space Station. An investigation team was established in March to develop recommendations that could be used to prevent similar scenarios from occurring in the future.

In March, NASA and Boeing completed a joint independent review of the anomalies experienced during the flight test. A summary of recommendations and the action plan already implemented will be available online at:

http://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew

Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test was an uncrewed test of the company’s Starliner crew spacecraft as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Learn more about commercial crew at:

https://www.nasa.gov/exploration/commercial/crew/index.html

Starliner Parachutes Perform Under Pressure

Two drogue parachutes successfully deploy from a Boeing Starliner test article during a landing system reliability test conducted on June 21 above White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico. (Credit: Boeing)

WHITE SANDS, NM (NASA PR) — Boeing put Starliner’s parachutes to the test again on June 21 as part of a supplemental reliability campaign designed to further validate the system’s capabilities under an adverse set of environmental factors.

Boeing is developing the Starliner spacecraft to take astronauts to and from the International Space Station in partnership with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

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The Year of the Four Spaceships: A Progress Report

The Expedition 63 crew welcomes Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley to the International Space Station. (Credits: NASA / Bill Stafford)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Back in February, I went out on a limb and predicted that 2020 could be the Year of the Four Spaceships, with SpaceX, Boeing, Blue Origin, and Virgin Galactic and reaching major milestones in human spaceflight. (See 2020: Four Spaceships & the End of America’s Cosmic Groundhog Day)

With nearly half the year over, I thought it would be a good time to review the companies’ progress toward those milestones.

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Boeing Conducts First-Ever Astronaut Training in Virtual Reality Using Varjo Headsets

Photorealistic VR allows Starliner crew members to experience the most demanding and safety-critical scenarios in all phases of spaceflight

Helsinki, Finland, June 11, 2020 (Varjo PR) – Varjo, the leader in industrial-grade VR/XR headsets, today announced that its virtual reality headsets will be used by Boeing’s Starliner program to augment astronaut training, adding a new dimension to spaceflight preparations.

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Meet Crew Dragon Astronaut Douglas Hurley

OFFICIAL NASA BIOGRAPHY

Douglas Hurley (Credit: NASA)

Summary:

Douglas G. Hurley was selected as an astronaut in 2000. A veteran of two spaceflights, he was the pilot on STS‐127 and STS‐135. Hurley holds a Bachelor of Science in Civil Engineering from Tulane University. Before joining NASA, he was a fighter pilot and test pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps.

Hurley is currently training for the Demo 2 flight of SpaceX’s CrewDragon spacecraft, the first crewed flight for that vehicle.  He and his crewmates are working closely with SpaceX to develop their new spacecraft systems, which will provide roundtrip crew transportation services to the International Space Station and, along with Boeing’s Starliner, return the ability to launch humans into space from United States soil.

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Roscosmos Official: U.S.-Russian Space Cooperation Deteriorating

Roscosmos boss Dmitry Rogozin meets with Russia’s boss of bosses, President Vladimir Putin. (Credit: Russian President’s Office)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Although Russian President Vladimir Putin is apparently U.S. President Donald Trump’s favorite autocratic ruler, cooperation between the two nations on future space projects are breaking down, a high-ranking Roscosmos official said.

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Boeing to Fly Additional Starliner Mission

Starliner OFT-1 capsule after landing at White Sands Missile Range. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — Boeing has decided to fly a second uncrewed flight test as a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Although no new launch date has been set, NASA has accepted the proposal to fly the mission again and will work side-by-side with Boeing to resume flight tests to the International Space Station on the company’s CST-100 Starliner system.

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Boeing to Refly Automated Starliner Flight Test

Starliner OFT-1 capsule after landing at White Sands Missile Range. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

Boeing will refly an automated mission of its Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) later this year after the near catastrophic loss of one of the crew vehicle in December.

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Boeing’s Troubled Starliner Flight: It’s All in the Numbers

by Douglas Messier
Managing Editor

To truly understand how problem plagued Boeing’s orbital flight test of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft was in December, all one needs to do is to look at the numbers.

  • 2: Boeing could have lost the automated spacecraft in flight on two separate occasions, once after launch and again before reentry;
  • 3: number of glitches (two software, one communications) that nearly resulted in the loss of the spacecraft;
  • 49: gaps in software testing where software bugs might have been found;
  • 61: corrective actions recommended by joint independent review team investigating the anomalies;
  • 410,000,000: Cost in dollars to Boeing if has to redo an automated flight test to the International Space Station (ISS) before conducting one with crew;
  • 4,200,000,000: Cost in dollars of what NASA is paying Boeing to develop and test Starliner.

On Friday, Boeing and NASA officials briefed the media on the results of an independent review team’s investigation of Starliner’s partially successful flight test just before Christmas.

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NASA Update on Orbital Flight Test Independent Review Team

The Orbital Flight Test Starliner being processed by technicians after return from White Sands Missile Range. (Credit: Boeing)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The joint NASA and Boeing Independent Review Team formed following the anomalies during the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test as a part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program has completed its initial investigation.

The team was tasked with reviewing three primary anomalies experienced during the mission: two software coding errors and unanticipated loss of space-to-ground communication capability. During the investigation, the team identified several technical and organizational issues related to Boeing’s work. Separate from the independent team, NASA reviewed its role in the flight test and identified several areas where the agency can improve its level of participation and involvement into company’s processes.

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NASA, Boeing to Provide Outcome of Starliner Orbital Flight Test Reviews

Starliner OFT-1 capsule after landing at White Sands Missile Range. (Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls)

WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — NASA and Boeing will host a media teleconference at 11 a.m. EST Friday, March 6, to discuss the outcome of the joint independent review team investigation into the primary issues detected during the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test in December as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Participants in the briefing will be:

  • Douglas Loverroassociate administrator of NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate 
  • Jim Chilton, senior vice president at Boeing Space and Launch
  • Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program
  • John Mulholland, vice president and manager of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner Program

Audio of the teleconference will stream live online at: 

https://www.nasa.gov/live