The Starliner, a Boeing-made spacecraft, was launched on Friday local time, but then abandoned a test mission to dock with the International Space Station because it failed to get into the correct orbit. Now the spacecraft faces another daunting task: a smooth return to Earth.
Pictured: The Boeing-built Interstellar Line spacecraft blasted off on Friday local time
The Interstellar Spacecraft is reported to have landed in the New Mexico desert at 7:57 a.m. EST on Sunday, a full week ahead of scheduled landing time.
In a media conference call Saturday afternoon local time, Boeing and NASA officials expressed confidence in the Starline spacecraft and its ability to return safely to Earth.
“Our spacecraft is in good shape,” said Jim Chilton, Boeing’s senior vice president for space operations and spacecraft launches. The NASA and Boeing teams have been working closely together to achieve as many test goals as we can. The interstellar spacecraft is in “very good shape, ” Mr. Chelton said. “
But they also acknowledge that re-entry and landing of the spacecraft is a huge challenge that requires a complex series of operations. The Interstellar spacecraft ran into problems after separating from the Atlas V rocket. Boeing had previously suffered from problems with the interstellar spacecraft’s parachute system, when one of the spacecraft’s three main parachutes failed to open.
“There’s no doubt that tomorrow we have something to prove,” Chelton said. “
When the spacecraft crosses the atmosphere vertically, it will reach 25 times the speed of sound, and the spacecraft’s heat shield must withstand temperatures of 3,000 degrees. The Starline spacecraft then opens a series of parachutes and opens the airbags and lands at the White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico.
In a previous abort engine test, one of the spacecraft’s main parachutes failed to open because a cone was not properly fixed and the cone was supposed to connect a larger main umbrella to a smaller resistance umbrella. The cone is located under a protective sleeve that people cannot see at all. So When Boeing checked the parachute before the test, it didn’t notice the problem.
Chelton said Saturday local time that he is confident about the parachute system on Friday’s launch of the Starliner spacecraft. Steve Stitch, deputy director of NASA’s Commercial Astronaut Program, said NASA inspectors independently verified the system. They “could clearly see that the parachute was set up correctly and we had no concerns about it.” “
Mr. Chelton said Boeing is still investigating what went wrong after the launch. Everything went perfect after the Atlas 5 rocket lifted off from Cape Canaveral, Florida, on Friday, but the Starline spacecraft engine didn’t fire as planned.
Officials blamed the engine’s ignition failure on improper calibration of the time system, which made the spacecraft think it was in a different position than the actual mission. Ground controllers were unable to issue instructions to the spacecraft in time to correct the error because of communication problems, and NASA and Boeing eventually decided not to test the spacecraft to dock with the space station as planned.
When the spacecraft was in the wrong orbit, a series of thrusters began to start trying to correct the flight path. But the fuel interferes with the entire system, causing sensors that monitor the condition of the thruster to send out some error messages. Since then, the ground team has been checking propulsion systems, “so far, they’ve been running,” Chelton said. “We think that the increased combustion caused some sensors to overheat. “
Mr. Chelton said the spacecraft’s software system has been tested extensively before. “We were surprised that a large number of comprehensive tests approved by NASA did not find any problems, ” he said. “
Chelton said the timing system has been reset and now appears to be functioning properly. Other systems on board are not expected to be affected, he said, “and so far it doesn’t look like a serious systemic problem.” “
Mr Chelton said Boeing and NASA had sent independent teams to see if similar problems would arise as the spacecraft prepared to land. “Our team has been working hard for the last 24 hours and now we think we’re ready,” he said. “
Chelton noted that the ship’s life support, navigation and control systems are working well, and that the spacecraft’s solar arrays are functioning better than expected.
Chris Ferguson, a former NASA astronaut who works for Boeing, plans to take part in the first manned flight of an interstellar spacecraft. In a letter to employees, he wrote that the company was “cautiously optimistic about the successful return of the spacecraft in the coming days.” “
He added: “For example, anyone can swing a few shots on the golf course … Only a true champion can win without interference. In other words, we are judged not by the mistakes that occur, but by the calmness we show under pressure as we recover from them. We can do it. “