On the morning of December 20, boeing will conduct its first test flight of its Starliner manned spacecraft, and the Atlas V rocket will carry a never-before-seen spacecraft from Florida, ending with the International Space Station,media reported. The CST-100 Starliner is a new manned spacecraft developed by Boeing that can hold up to seven crew members into low-Earth orbit. No one will be on this particular mission on Starliner, but the flight could pave the way for the first manned flight next year.
The launch is Boeing’s penultimate test flight as part of NASA’s commercial manned flight program, a multi-year program to develop new U.S.-made spacecraft to transport NASA astronauts to and from the space station. Boeing and rival SpaceX are committed to helping NASA achieve this goal. SpaceX and Boeing had planned to conduct manned flights in 2017, but delays and technical problems hampered the plan.
By the end of this year, however, the two companies will be in the throes of sending humans into space. As early as March, SpaceX began an unmanned flight test of its manned Dragon spacecraft. Now, Boeing is using Starliner to do the same thing. That’s why Boeing’s orbital flight tests are so important.
When the shuttle program ended in 2011, NASA reached an agreement with Roscosmos, the Russian space agency, to fly its astronauts aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station.
It turned out to be an expensive deal, sometimes with inconvenience. NASA needs to spend about $81 million per seat on the Soyuz, and if it fails, it will have no choice to enter the International Space Station. The dire prospect became a reality when the Soyuz rocket carrying NASA and Russian cosmonauts failed to launch last year and was forced to make an emergency landing. Fortunately, the two astronauts were unharmed, and The Soyuz quickly resumed its regular flight. However, if the problem is more serious, there may be a big gap between flights to the International Space Station.
The commercial manned flight program is designed to launch manned spacecraft from the U.S. mainland and offers a variety of options for crews to travel to and from the International Space Station. In 2014, NASA awarded spaceX and Boeing a contract that initially provided $2.6 billion and $4.2 billion to the two companies to partially fund the development of new manned spacecraft. (A recent audit showed that Boeing had received an additional $287 million since winning the final award.) Some of these contracts involve reaching certain test milestones, and unmanned test flights are the last steps people can take on commercial manned spacecraft.
The upcoming flight is essentially a “rehearsal” for Starliner’s flight, which is seen as Boeing’s preparations to transport astronauts. The goal is to understand how Starliner remains stable in the space environment. “This is a great opportunity for us to learn the truest performance of the spacecraft,” Phil McAlister, NASA’s director of commercial space development, said in a press release. “Computer models are great, but they only allow us to go further, and understanding how spacecraft actually performs in space-running environments is a huge confidence-building measure. “
Starliner will travel to the International Space Station with a dummy named Rosie The Riveter, which will carry sensors to collect journey data. The mannequins will be accompanied by nearly 600 pounds (270 kg) of cargo for the crew of the International Space Station, including food, clothing and radiation monitoring equipment.
Starliner’s space trip will be via the Atlas V rocket, the main rocket of United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Unlike SpaceX,” which has extensive experience in launching cargo to the space station, this will be a new flight for Boeing and ULA. The mission will mark the 81st flight of the Atlas V rocket, which has a near-perfect launch record, but will be Starliner’s first flight. To put the manned spacecraft where it needs to be, the company modified the Atlas V rocket to provide additional space. The rocket will have two smaller boosters tied to its base to provide greater thrust, and the upper part of the rocket will have a second engine. (There is usually only one.) )
The launch time of the rocket is tentatively scheduled for December 20 at 6:36 a.m. EST. Atlas V deploys Starliner in approximately 15 minutes. In fact, Atlas V is taking Starliner to a very low suborbital path. The idea is that this will make it easier for any astronaut to return to Earth in an emergency, and they will need to abort the mission and land in the ocean. Once Starliner is deployed, it will ignite its own engine, which will put the capsule into orbit. The capsule will then dock with the International Space Station early Saturday morning.
Some spacecraft visiting the space station, such as SpaceX’s Cargo Dragon, are not actually docked with the International Space Station. Instead, dock them, which is a different way from a collection point. Essentially, they will approach the station slowly, and a crew member on the International Space Station will use a long robotic arm to grab the spacecraft and drag it near the docking port.
Commercial manned vehicles, on the other hand, do not need any help to reach the space station. They are designed to be self-docking. Once Starliner reaches the International Space Station, it will use a range of sensors and radar to automatically dock with one of the station’s standard docking ports, which will help slowly guide Starliner to its stops. The program is scheduled to take place at 8 a.m. EST on December 21, one of Starliner’s most important tasks and one of the biggest demonstrations.
“We’ve trained astronauts for this, and they’ll continue to watch,” Pat Forrester, director of NASA’s Johnson Space Center astronaut office, said in a press release. “
Once added to the International Space Station, Starliner will stay for about a week before returning to Earth. On the evening of December 27, the spacecraft will be separated from the International Space Station as planned and will return to Earth quickly. After separating from the International Space Station, Starliner launches the thruster and takes it out of orbit. From there, Starliner can return to the ground in just 45 minutes. The spacecraft will use a series of three parachutes to slowly land it on Earth. The landing time should take place at 5:47 a.m. EST.
When Starliner returns to Earth, Boeing will conduct a large-scale test. “Obviously, we’re going to traverse all the spacecraft and launch the vehicle data, through each system, to make sure that the spacecraft is reliable in all of its subsystem areas,” said John Mulholland, Boeing’s vice president and project manager for the Commercial Manned Program. “
After that, Boeing’s last major flight test was a major flight test: a manned flight that will carry NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Michael Fink, as well as Boeing astronaut Christopher Ferguson. It was not immediately clear when the crew would fly.
Boeing recently completed testing of Starliner’s emergency suspension system, which is used to transport the spacecraft to safety in the event of a major problem during flight. However, after the test, only two of the three parachutes were opened, leading some to question whether there was a major failure. Boeing shrugged off the issue, and a representative for the company said Tuesday that the issue had been resolved.