Autor Wątek: [AS] Starliner Clears Pad Abort Test as ULA Rolls Out Rocket for Dec 17 Orbital  (Przeczytany 2122 razy)

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Boeing implementing more rigorous testing of Starliner after software problems
by Jeff Foust — February 28, 2020 [SN]

Boeing says it's implementing more rigorous testing of software and other systems on its CST-100 Starliner commercial crew spacecraft after two major software errors were found on its uncrewed test flight last December. Credit: Boeing

WASHINGTON — As the independent review of last December’s test flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle nears completion, the company said it will perform more rigorous testing to catch errors that slipped through on that flight.

In a Feb. 28 briefing at Boeing offices here, John Mulholland, vice president and program manager of Starliner, said the company is continuing an audit of the software on the spacecraft after two significant errors were found during its two-day uncrewed test flight, while making plans to perform more rigorous testing prior to future missions.

“We know we need to improve, particularly with rebuilding trust with our customer, and we pledge our discipline and commitment to doing so,” he said. “We’re going to apply additional rigor to systems engineering and software development.”

That test flight, known as Orbital Flight Test (OFT), was shortened to two days, and a planned docking with the International Space Station cancelled, because a problem with a mission elapsed timer on the spacecraft kept it from performing an orbital insertion burn as planned shortly after separation from the rocket’s upper stage. An investigation found that the spacecraft’s timer was initialized at the wrong time during the launch countdown, causing it to be off by 11 hours.

At a Feb. 6 meeting of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, members said they had been briefed about a second software problem, called a “valve mapping error,” for the thrusters on the Starliner’s service module. That problem could have caused the service module to collide with the crew module after separation just before reentry, damaging the module and putting a safe landing in jeopardy. Engineers found the problem while Starliner was in orbit and transmitted corrected software to the spacecraft about three hours before landing.

Mulholland said that the timer problem was not corrected in prelaunch testing with United Launch Alliance because the company split testing of the spacecraft into different phases of the mission. For launch, the tests ended immediately after spacecraft separation, and thus did not detect the timer offset. “If we would have run the integrated test with ULA through the first orbital insertion burn timeframe, we would have seen that we would have missed the orbital insertion burn because the timing was corrupt,” he said.

Going forward, he said Boeing will test Starliner operations from launch through docking, and from undocking to landing. That wasn’t done earlier because of the length of such tests: more than a day from launch to docking. “The team thought at the time it was more logical to break these mission phases into chunks and do a lot of testing in those smaller chunks,” he said.

The valve mapping problem involved the use of what Mulholland called a “legacy propulsion controller” on the service module. One mapping, which identified thrusters and valves in software, is needed when the service module is attached to the crew module while another is required for use after separation.

“Unfortunately, that requirement was not picked up” in interface control documents for that propulsion controller, he said. “The only thing that was picked up was the one jet map for the integrated spacecraft and we missed the jet map that was required for the service module after separation.”

That oversight wasn’t caught in testing because the controller itself was not available when the software was tested because it was being used for a service module hotfire test. The emulator used in its place didn’t allow engineers to identify the missing jet mapping.

In the future, Mulholland said they’ll more closely study hardware requirements for testing. “We’re not only going to define exactly what tests have to be performed, but we’re going to require that define exactly what the hardware configuration needs to be in the lab,” he said.

At a Feb. 7 briefing, Boeing announced it would review all the Starliner software, accounting for about one million lines of code. Mulholland said that audit had completed all of the “high” and “medium” items in terms of complexity of their logic, and most of the low-complexity ones. That audit found a few gaps in testing that engineers are now following up on, but no evidence of additional software anomalies.

Asked why some testing was overlooked, Mulholland said it wasn’t a matter of cost-cutting or otherwise taking deliberate shortcuts. “They did an abundance of testing and in certain areas we obviously have gaps to go fill,” he said of the Starliner team.

Other aspects of Starliner performed well during the abbreviated test flight with only minor technical issues. Engineers are still investigating a communications problem that hindered initial efforts to recover the spacecraft after the timing problem kept it from performing its orbit insertion burn. That problem took place 37 times during the mission, all but one over the same area, northern Europe and Russia, he said, with the sole exception a known case where the antenna falsely thought it was locked.

Mulholland said it’s not clear yet if the problem is caused by interference unique to that area or if the specific selection of antennas for communicating with relay satellites made it more susceptible to ordinary interference. “We really need to look a little bit deeper into that before we give any final results,” he said.

The investigation into the communications problem is unlikely to be completed before an independent review team presents its results. While the briefing was in progress, NASA announced another media briefing was scheduled for March 6 to discuss the findings from the rest of that independent team’s work, with both NASA and Boeing personnel scheduled to participate.

Mulholland declined to speculate on whether a second OFT mission should be flown before performing a crewed Starliner flight, or when that flight would take place. “The timeframe between now and the next flight is going to be determined by us methodically working our way through that audit process,” he said, including any problems it might yet uncover. “It’s a little too early” to set that schedule, he argued.

A decision on whether the next flight will be uncrewed or crewed, he added, will ultimately be made by NASA and not Boeing. “NASA is doing the evaluation of that now, and it’s their decision on which flight will be next.”

Congress will be closely watching that decision and other aspects of NASA’s overall commercial crew program. “It is absolutely something we’re following and concerned about,” said Rep. Kendra Horn (D-Okla.), chair of the House space subcommittee, in a Feb. 28 interview prior to the Boeing briefing.

“We’re looking at something that has slipped. There have been problems with both of the contractors,” she said, a reference to SpaceX, the other commercial crew provider, which suffered the loss of a Crew Dragon spacecraft last April during testing for a planned in-flight abort test. “That’s why it’s important that NASA have that ability to direct and oversee and have access at all parts of this process.”


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No decision yet on need for second Starliner uncrewed test flight
by Jeff Foust — March 6, 2020 [SN]

NASA said it's too soon to know yet if Boeing will need to perform a second uncrewed test flight of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, as the company works to implement corrective actions from the December 2019 uncrewed flight. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

WASHINGTON — Although an independent review team has wrapped up its investigation into issues with last December’s uncrewed test flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, NASA says it will be some time before it decides if a second uncrewed test flight is needed.

NASA and Boeing officials, speaking during a media teleconference March 6, said there is still significant work ahead as the company addresses 61 corrective actions identified by that review into the Starliner’s Orbital Flight Test (OFT), which suffered at least three significant issues with software and communications.

Those corrective actions will be worked on “over the next several months in order to make sure that, when we decide to fly again, we can fly safely,” said Doug Loverro, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations.

Loverro added that he was formally designating that OFT mission a “high-visibility close call” in NASA parlance, which is defined in agency procedures as one it “judges to possess a high degree of safety risk, programmatic impact or public, media, or political interest including, but not limited to, mishaps and close calls affecting flight hardware or software, or completion of critical mission milestones.”

The “close call” designation is below that of a mishap, but still requires a NASA review. “It’s the lowest level of a call we make in something like this,” he said. “We can all agree that this was a close call. We could have lost a spacecraft twice during this mission.”

That designation, he said, allows the agency to formally collect recommendations and lessons learned and triggers an “organizational root cause assessment” to look at processes both at NASA and Boeing that may have contributed to the problems in the flight. Doing so will make sure “we truly do learn from this event and that we know how to fix it and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

The 61 corrective actions found by the independent review team do not mean there are 61 separate problems with the mission. John Mulholland, vice president and manager of the Starliner program at Boeing, said the panel reviewed the three problems previously discussed: a software issue that caused the spacecraft’s mission elapsed timer to be off by 11 hours, an incorrect software mapping for thrusters in the spacecraft’s service module, and intermittent communications problems.

“There were 61 recommendations. They don’t map to 61 design issues,” added Jim Chilton, senior vice president at Boeing Space and Launch.

Neither NASA nor Boeing, though, would immediately release the list of 61 corrective actions or give other details about them. Loverro, asked by reporters several times during the call to release that list, said “we hadn’t had that conversation with Boeing” yet about making the list public.

Implementing the corrective actions and carrying out the reviews triggered by the high-visibility close call notification will take time, and Loverro said there was no decision on whether Boeing would need to perform a second uncrewed test flight or move directly to a crewed test flight as originally planned.

“Quite frankly, right now, we don’t know” if Boeing will need a second uncrewed test flight, he said. The company needs to first come back to NASA with a plan and schedule for implementing those corrective actions, and then carry out that work for inspection by NASA.

“We are still a ways away from that, and I can’t even tell you what the schedule is for making that decision,” Loverro said. Kathy Lueders, NASA’s commercial crew program manager, said there was a review scheduled for the end of March for NASA to examine Boeing’s plan to implement those corrective actions.

“At the end of the day, what we have got to decide is, based upon the work that Boeing will do, do we have enough confidence to say we are ready to fly with a crew, or do we believe that we need another uncrewed test flight?” Loverro said.

He declined to discuss any contractual implications of requiring a second uncrewed test flight, although Boeing announced in January it took a $410 million charge in earnings related to its commercial crew program, in part to cover costs of a potential OFT reflight.

“For us, it’s not that complicated,” Chilton said. “Boeing stands ready to repeat an OFT.”

The implementation of the corrective actions, and the reviews linked to the close call designation, should not affect SpaceX as it prepares for its Demo-2 crewed test flight of its Crew Dragon spacecraft. “There’s no known crossover to the SpaceX demonstration at this point,” Loverro said, beyond any changes in NASA procedures. “I don’t foresee any real impact out of this to the SpaceX schedule.”


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No decision yet on additional test flight for Boeing Starliner spacecraft
March 7, 2020 William Harwood [SFN]

Boeing’s Starliner rolls out of the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility in November 2019 at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, during preparations for its first Orbital Flight Test. Credit: Stephen Clark/Spaceflight Now

A review team studying software glitches and other miscues that cropped up during an unpiloted test flight of Boeing’s CST-100 crew capsule last December has made some 60 recommendations to make sure all the known shortcomings are addressed before the spacecraft is cleared for another flight, NASA managers said Friday.

During the December test flight, a major software error, coupled with communications dropouts, prevented a planned rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station. Another software mistake could have caused a catastrophic failure during the capsule’s return to Earth had it not been caught in time.

Douglas Loverro, director of spaceflight at NASA Headquarters, told reporters Friday he classified the incidents as a “high-visibility close call,” a formal designation that kicks off additional government review. In the meantime, he said the agency will make sure the review team’s recommendations are implemented.

It’s not clear how long that may take. Loverro said he did not yet know whether NASA might require a second unpiloted orbital flight test, or OFT, to verify the performance of all of the CST-100 Starliner’s systems, or whether Boeing could develop a rationale for pressing straight ahead to a crewed flight test, or CFT, to the International Space Station.

“Quite frankly, right now we don’t know,” Loverro said. “They have to now come back to NASA with a plan, how they’re going to go ahead and address all of those (recommendations). … We will do our own inspection of the results of their work. And then we’ll be in a position to decide whether or not we need another (uncrewed) test flight or not.

“So we are still a ways away from that. And I can’t even tell you what the schedule is for making that decision, because it’s very dependent upon what we see as Boeing’s corrective action plan and the thoroughness by which we believe that correction action plan has been implemented.”

Jim Chilton, senior vice president at Boeing Space and Launch, said the company will do whatever NASA asks. The company told investors earlier that it was taking a $410 million charge against pre-tax earnings in large part to cover the possible cost of another test flight.

“For us, it’s not that complicated,” he said. “Boeing stands ready to repeat an OFT (if required). … There’s not any intent on our part to avoid it. We just want to make sure that whatever we fly next is aligned with NASA’s preferences. And of course for all of us, crew safety is number one.”

Boeing and SpaceX are both building piloted astronaut ferry ships for NASA, under commercial contracts valued at up to $6.8 billion, to end the agency’s sole reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to carry U.S. crews to and from the International Space Station.

SpaceX carried out a successful unpiloted test flight of its Crew Dragon spacecraft last year and is gearing up for a second test flight, this one with two NASA astronauts on board, in the May-June timeframe.

Boeing launched an unpiloted CST-100 Starliner capsule last December, but the spacecraft’s computer set its mission clock to the wrong time before liftoff, causing it to miss a critical orbit raising maneuver.

By the time flight controllers figured out what happened and worked around a communications problem to uplink corrective commands, the capsule was no longer able to carry out a planned rendezvous and docking with the International Space Station.

Boeing engineers then found and corrected another software oversight that could have caused the spacecraft’s service module, jettisoned prior to atmospheric entry, to crash back into the capsule.

The software problems made it into the spacecraft in part because Boeing did not carry out end-to-end tests of the systems in question before launch. Engineers relied on emulators that act as electronic stand ins in some cases that did not accurately reflect the behavior of flight hardware. In addition, some critical software was tested in segments that masked problems that otherwise might have been caught and corrected.

The mission elapsed timer error, the service module disposal problem and the communications glitches were the major issues encountered during the OFT mission, but the Independent Review Team looking into the incidents came up with some 60 recommendations for corrective actions.

NASA has not yet released a list of those recommendations.

“I want to make sure that everybody understands we at NASA are taking this very seriously,” Loverro said. “We’re going to make sure that at the end of the day, we can fly astronauts safely on Starliner.”


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Boeing to fly second Starliner uncrewed test flight
by Jeff Foust — April 6, 2020 [SN]

Boeing announced April 6 that it will refly its uncrewed Orbital Flight Test of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft later this year to confirm the company corrected problems found on the first flight. Credit: Boeing

WASHINGTON — Boeing announced April 6 that it has decided to fly a second uncrewed test flight of its CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle later this year to confirm it has corrected problems encountered in a test flight last December.

In a brief statement, Boeing said it would perform a second Orbital Flight Test (OFT) of the spacecraft at its own expense. Boeing made the announcement shortly after the Washington Post reported that the company planned to repeat the flight.

“We have chosen to refly our Orbital Flight Test to demonstrate the quality of the Starliner system,” the company said in a one-paragraph statement. “Flying another uncrewed flight will allow us to complete all flight test objectives and evaluate the performance of the second Starliner vehicle at no cost to the taxpayer.”

A second OFT mission looked increasingly likely in the months after the original OFT. That mission was shortened to two days and without a planned docking at the International Space Station because of a timer problem on the spacecraft that caused it to think it was at a different phase of its flight immediately after separation from the Atlas 5 upper stage that launched it.

An investigation also revealed a problem with software controls for the spacecraft’s service module that could have caused the module to bump back into the crew module after they separated shortly before reentry. The software was fixed just a few hours before reentry.

Boeing, anticipating the need to refly the mission, took a $410 million charge against earnings in January. “NASA’s approval is required to proceed with a flight test with astronauts on board. Given this obligation, we are provisioned for another uncrewed mission,” Greg Smith, Boeing’s chief financial officer, said in a Jan. 29 earnings call.

While an independent review of the OFT mission found 61 corrective actions for Boeing, NASA officials said in early March they had not yet decided if Boeing needed to perform a second uncrewed test flight.

“At the end of the day, what we have got to decide is, based upon the work that Boeing will do, do we have enough confidence to say we are ready to fly with a crew, or do we believe that we need another uncrewed test flight?” Doug Loverro, NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said in a March 6 call with reporters. “We are still a ways away from that, and I can’t even tell you what the schedule is for making that decision” about reflying OFT.

Ultimately, that decision came from Boeing, and not from NASA. In a separate statement, NASA said it not made its own conclusion about whether a second OFT was required.

“If Boeing would have proposed a crewed mission as the next flight, NASA would have completed a detailed review and analysis of the proposal to determine the feasibility of the plan,” the agency said. “However, as this was not the recommendation made by Boeing, NASA will not speculate on what the agency would have required.”

NASA added that Boeing still has to address the 61 corrective actions from the independent review. “NASA still intends to conduct the needed oversight to make sure those corrective actions are taken,” the agency said.

“Hats off to Boeing for recommending a repeat of their Orbital Flight Test for the Commercial Crew program,” Loverro tweeted after the Boeing announcement. “Corporate responsibility takes many forms, and this is one of them.”

NASA and Boeing are still working on an “agreeable schedule” for the second OFT mission, Boeing spokesman Jerry Drelling told SpaceNews, but said that the company expects to fly it in the fall of 2020. That would mean it would come after SpaceX’s Demo-2 crewed test flight of its Crew Dragon spacecraft, currently scheduled for no earlier than the latter half of May. If that mission flies on schedule and is a success, NASA will likely launch the first operational Crew Dragon mission, Crew-1, in late summer.

Drelling also said that Boeing will use the Starliner spacecraft called “Spacecraft 2” for the second OFT mission. That spacecraft was originally slated to fly the Crew Flight Test. The Starliner used for the OFT, “Spacecraft 3,” was to be refurbished for the first operational mission for NASA.


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After problem-plagued test flight, Boeing will refly crew capsule without astronauts
April 6, 2020 Stephen Clark [SFN]

In this file photo from 2019, technicians prepare Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft for fueling before its first unpiloted space mission. Credit: Boeing

Boeing officials said Monday the company’s Starliner crew capsule will fly a second time without astronauts after software problems and other issues plagued a first test flight in December, preventing the ship from reaching the International Space Station.

The CST-100 Starliner crew capsule was expected to fly with astronauts for the first time this year, capping a multibillion-dollar NASA-funded development program. But a mission timing error caused the spacecraft to burn too much fuel to enter orbit after an otherwise successful launch Dec. 20 prevented the capsule from docking with the space station.

A potentially catastrophic programming oversight discovered after the Starliner’s launch had to be corrected with a software patch to ensure the capsule could safely come back to Earth.

The Starliner capsule, designed to be reusable, landed at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico on Dec. 22.

Beleaguered by back-to-back crashes and the subsequent global grounding of the 737 MAX passenger jet and more recent headwinds from the slump in air travel due to the coronavirus pandemic, Boeing said it would fund the unplanned crew capsule test flight “at no cost to the taxpayer.”

Boeing told investors earlier this year it was taking a $410 million charge against its earnings to cover the expected costs of a second unpiloted test flight.

The company on Monday confirmed a report in the Washington Post that it will fly a second uncrewed demonstration mission — which Boeing calls an Orbital Flight Test — before astronauts ride a Starliner into orbit.

“We have chosen to refly our Orbital Flight Test to demonstrate the quality of the Starliner system,” Boeing said in a statement Monay. “Flying another uncrewed flight will allow us to complete all flight test objectives and evaluate the performance of the second Starliner vehicle at no cost to the taxpayer.  We will then proceed to the tremendous responsibility and privilege of flying astronauts to the International Space Station.”

NASA said it accepted a recommendation from Boeing to fly a second unpiloted mission.

“Boeing has decided to fly a second uncrewed flight test as a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program,” the space agency said in a statement. “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.”

The Washington Post reported the second Orbital Flight Test, with much the same objectives as the first, is expected to launch from Cape Canaveral “sometime in October or November.”

Boeing said the company is “committed to the safety of the men and women who design, build and ultimately will fly on the Starliner just as we have on every crewed mission to space.”

“Although many of the objectives of Boeing’s first uncrewed flight test in December 2019 were accomplished, Boeing decided the best approach to meeting the agency’s requirements would be to fly the mission again, including docking with the space station,” NASA said Monday. “Data from the next and previous flight test will be used as part of NASA’s process of certifying Boeing’s crew transportation system for carrying astronauts to and from the space station.”

Earlier this year, Boeing officials said the company missed chances to uncover the software bugs during testing before the first Orbital Flight Test.

John Mulholland, vice president and manager of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner program, said in February that the company performed testing of Starliner’s software in chunks, with each test focused on a specific segment of the mission. Boeing did not perform an end-to-end test of the entire software suite, and in some cases used stand-ins, or emulators, for flight computers.

A review team investigating the miscues during the December test flight issued some 60 recommendations to be implemented before the Starliner flies in space again. Doug Loverro, head of NASA’s human spaceflight directorate, said last month he designated the botched Starliner test flight a “high-visibility close call,” which triggers another government review.

The Starliner spacecraft from Boeing’s first Orbital Flight Test is seen Jan. 15 inside the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. A darkened streak from the heat of atmospheric re-entry is visible on the capsule’s thermal blankets, and the ship’s hatch is open. Credit: Stephen Clark / Spaceflight Now

One of the software problems was immediately apparent after the Starliner’s ascent into space Dec. 20 from Cape Canaveral aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket. A mission elapsed timer on the capsule had a wrong setting, causing the spacecraft to miss a planned engine firing soon after separating from the Atlas 5’s Centaur upper stage.

The orbit insertion burn was required to inject the Starliner capsule into a stable orbit and begin its pursuit of the space station. After the automated sequence failed due to the on-board timer setting, ground controllers at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston had to uplink manual commands for the Starliner spacecraft to perform the orbit insertion burn, but the ship burned too much fuel during the process, leaving insufficient propellant to rendezvous and dock with the space station.

Ground teams in Houston also encountered trouble establishing a stable communications link with the Starliner when they attempted to send commands for the orbit insertion burn, further delaying the start of the maneuver. Boeing says ground teams had issues connecting with the spacecraft on more than 30 additional occasions during the Starliner’s two-day test flight.

With a docking to the space station no longer possible, mission managers cut short the Starliner test flight and targeted landing in New Mexico on Dec. 22.

After the mission timer problem, Boeing engineers reviewed other segments of the Starliner’s software code to search for other problem areas. They uncovered another software error that was missed in pre-flight testing, which could have caused the Starliner’s service module to slam into the craft’s crew module after the ship’s two elements separated just before re-entry into the atmosphere.

A software fix uplinked to the Starliner spacecraft before re-entry ensured the capsule could safely land.

“The second uncrewed flight does not relieve Boeing from completing all the actions determined from the joint NASA/Boeing independent review team, which was commissioned following the flawed initial flight,” NASA said in a statement. “NASA still intends to conduct the needed oversight to make sure those corrective actions are taken.”

Boeing has two space-rated Starliner crew capsules in preparation at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, including the craft that flew in December. Both are designed to fly up to 10 times to the space station, with each mission lasting up to seven months.

Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson — a former space shuttle commander — is assigned to the first crewed Starliner test flight. NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann will also be aboard the Starliner’s Crew Flight Test, a prerequisite to operational crew rotation missions using the Boeing capsule.

Space agency officials said Monday they have not determined a schedule for the first crewed Starliner mission.

NASA is paying Boeing more than $4.8 billion to design, develop, test and fly astronauts on the the Starliner spacecraft to the space station. Boeing announced the CST-100 Starliner program in 2010, and officials at the time said the capsule could begin operational crew rotation flights to the station by 2015.

That schedule fell aside after NASA encountered difficulty securing funding from Congress for the commercial crew program, which aims to restore U.S. human spaceflight capability and end NASA’s reliance on Russian Soyuz crew ships to get astronauts to the space station.

Once funded, the program suffered a series of delays caused by technical problems with the Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spaceship, NASA’s other commercial crew program.

NASA has agreements with SpaceX valued at $3.1 billion to develop and fly the Crew Dragon spaceship.

The Crew Dragon has successfully completed all of its test flights before astronauts strap in and ride the capsule into orbit. The SpaceX capsule successfully docked with the space station and returned to Earth on an uncrewed mission in March 2019, but an explosion during a ground test of the ship’s launch escape engines in April 2019 forced a multi-month delay.

SpaceX redesigned part of the high-pressure abort propulsion system, and demonstrated the change during an in-flight escape test in January over the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken could take off from the Kennedy Space Center on the Crew Dragon’s final test flight — the first one with a crew on-board — as soon as mid-to-late May atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket on a trip to the International Space Station, according to the space agency. Another Crew Dragon mission with four astronauts could launch to the space station later in the summer.

It will be the first crewed launch into Earth orbit from U.S. soil since the retirement of the space shuttle in 2011.

“This is exactly why NASA decided to select two partners in the commercial crew effort,” NASA said Monday. “Having dissimilar redundancy is key in NASA’s approach to maintaining a crew and cargo aboard the space station and to keeping our commitments to international partners. It also allows our private industry partners to focus on crew safety rather than schedule. The safety of our commercial crew team always will remain as our top priority.”

United Launch Alliance, a 50-50 joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin, is the launch provider for the Starliner program.

The Atlas booster originally assigned to the Starliner Crew Flight Test arrived at Cape Canaveral on June 5, 2019. The rocket is now expected to be used for the second Orbital Flight Test of Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule. Credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

“We are ready to support Boeing and NASA when they are ready to fly the second Orbital Flight Test,” ULA said in a statement Monday. “We continue to work closely with Boeing to ensure that the CST-100 Starliner flies as soon as the spacecraft is ready. We are committed to safety and mission assurance and are working to ensure the highest level of safety for the future crew.”

The Atlas 5 rocket for Starliner’s first piloted mission — called the Crew Flight Test — is already at Cape Canaveral after delivery from ULA’s factory in Alabama last year. That launch vehicle is expected to be used for the second Orbital Flight Test.

“The hardware for the next flight is at the Cape and is ready for launch processing once a launch date has been determined by the Boeing, NASA and ULA team,” ULA said in a statement.


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Odp: [SN] NASA completes reviews of Boeing commercial crew test flight
« Odpowiedź #20 dnia: Lipiec 11, 2020, 22:25 »
NASA completes reviews of Boeing commercial crew test flight
by Jeff Foust — July 7, 2020 [SN]

NASA said July 7 an independent review made 80 recommendations to address issues found during last December's uncrewed test of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Credit: NASA/Bill Ingalls

WASHINGTON — NASA announced July 7 that it has completed two major reviews that stemmed from Boeing’s flawed commercial crew test flight last December as the agency and company prepare for a second test flight later this year.

NASA said that an independent review team (IRT), jointly organized by NASA and Boeing to investigate the CST-100 Starliner uncrewed test flight last December, had wrapped up its work, having added 19 recommendations to the 61 the agency reported in March.

The additional recommendations cover communications problems experienced during the abbreviated Orbital Flight Test (OFT) mission. NASA said Boeing will install a radiofrequency filter to reduce out-of-band interference that caused intermittent space-to-ground communications problems during that flight.

Those problems were on top of software errors in a mission elapsed timer experienced immediately after launch that caused NASA to call off a planned docking of the spacecraft to the International Space Station. In addition, there was a software configuration issue with thrusters in the service module that, had it not been found and corrected during the two-day flight, could have caused the service module to bump into and potentially damage the crew capsule after separation just before reentry.

NASA did not release the specific set of recommendations, saying in a statement that list was “company sensitive and proprietary.” It noted the recommendations fell into five broad categories: testing and simulation, software requirements, process and operational improvements, software updates, and knowledge capture and modifications to Starliner hardware.

Boeing has started implementing those recommendations. “As soon as the IRT produced recommendations, they started adding resources,” Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s commercial crew program, said in a call with reporters. “They’ve been incrementally changing the software, testing the software, adding resources when required.”

As that independent review was winding down last spring, Doug Loverro, at the time NASA associate administrator for human exploration and operations, said he had designated the OFT mission a “high-visibility close call” that required a second review to identify any additional issues that needed to be addressed.

“We really wanted to make sure that we looked deep into ourselves, and our Boeing teammates,” said Kathy Lueders, who took over as associate administrator for human exploration and operations in June after managing the commercial crew program. The review was looking for any additional lessons learned that could be applied not just to Starliner but also other NASA human spaceflight programs.

That resulted in several recommendations, with a particular emphasis on systems engineering and integration, as well as software development and testing. Stich said NASA had added personnel to work “side by side” with Boeing on software.

Both Lueders and Stich acknowledged that NASA hadn’t put enough emphasis on reviewing software. “Perhaps we didn’t have as many people embedded in that process as we should have,” Stich said. “It was an area where perhaps we just didn’t have quite the level of NASA insight as we should have in hindsight.”

He added that NASA may have been blinded to some potential issues because of its familiarity with Boeing, given its experience on other NASA programs. NASA had been focused more on the other commercial crew company, SpaceX, in part because it used what he termed “a bit of a nontraditional approach” to software development.

“When one provider has a newer approach than another, it’s often natural for a human being to spend more time on that newer approach, and maybe we didn’t quite take the time we needed with the more traditional approach,” he said.

Lueders said the lessons from the close-call review would help other programs in her directorate, from the Space Launch System to the Human Landing System program for lunar lander development. “Where we had problems was across interfaces,” she said, so there’s a renewed focus on interfaces such as those between SLS and Orion or between elements of SLS itself. “It did give us pause, and then a particular action to go make sure that there are not any kind of hidden gotchas out there.”

“We do need to change our assumptions about how we’re working together,” she said of NASA’s work with commercial partners. “That’s going to be real learning that we can take forward into our Human Lander System programs and other programs.”

Boeing, which did not participate in the NASA media briefing, announced in April it would perform a second uncrewed flight test, called OFT-2, at its own expense. That mission is not yet formally scheduled, although Stich said current planning is for it to take place late this year.

“Today, we’re turning the page a bit from the investigation phase of OFT into hardware development” for OFT-2, Stich said. “The pacing item right now for flight is getting all the software upgrades in place and tested for a flight.” He declined to give a more specific launch date than the “latter part” of the year.

That makes it difficult, he said, to estimate a date for a crewed flight test for Starliner, similar to the ongoing Demo-2 Crew Dragon mission. In addition, Boeing is refurbishing the Starliner that flew the OFT mission for that crewed flight, a process the company is going through for the first time. He suggested, though, a flight next spring could be feasible. “We’ll have to see how that all shakes out as they get the software ready and continue to refurbish the vehicle.”

Stich said there was no chance that Boeing would be dropped from the commercial crew program. “Right now, I cannot envision a scenario where SpaceX is the only provider,” he said, arguing that the recommendations should address the problems found during the OFT mission before flying OFT-2. “I really don’t see a scenario where we would get to flight and have a flight that was similar to OFT-1.”

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Odp: [SFN] Starliner test flight next on ULA’s launch schedule
« Odpowiedź #21 dnia: Styczeń 27, 2021, 04:12 »
Starliner test flight next on ULA’s launch schedule after military mission delay
January 25, 2021 Stephen Clark

The Starliner crew module for the unpiloted Orbital Flight Test-2 mission was mated to its service module Jan. 14 inside the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Credit: Boeing/John Proferes

The U.S. Space Force has decided to delay the planned late February launch of two military satellites aboard a ULA Atlas 5 rocket to “evaluate readiness” of one of the payloads, giving officials a window to move forward the liftoff of an unpiloted test flight of Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule to no earlier than March 25.

The launch of the military’s Space Test Program-3, or STP-3, mission was previously scheduled Feb. 26 on an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The STP-3 mission will deliver two military spacecraft into a geosynchronous orbit more than 20,000 miles over the equator.

A spokesperson for the Space and Missile Systems Center said the STP-3 launch has been delayed to “evaluate readiness” of one the military satellites, named STPSat6, and “ensure mission success of the primary payload.”

STPSat 6 hosts several payloads and experiments, including the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Space and Atmospheric Burst Reporting System-3 payload, which is designed to detect nuclear detonations from orbit. NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration experiment and several more payloads are also flying on the STPSat 6 spacecraft.

A smaller satellite named LPDE 1 will ride into orbit with STPSat 6. The LPDE 1 spacecraft is designed to accommodate experimental payloads and small satellites, which could be deployed from the parent satellite in orbit.

The STP-3 mission is also a milestone mission for ULA because it will be the first Atlas 5 launch with U.S.-built payload fairing. The 5.4-meter-diameter (17.7-foot) shroud is identical in size to payload fairings that flew on previous Atlas 5 flights, but those were built by RUAG Space in Switzerland.

But the new fairings are built by RUAG technicians inside ULA’s rocket factory in Decatur, Alabama, using updated manufacturing techniques. The same fairing design is intended to fly on ULA’s next-generation Vulcan Centaur rocket.

The Space Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center said the STP-3 mission does not have a new target launch date.

United Launch Alliance’s Atlas 5 rocket lifts off Dec. 19, 2019, with Boeing’s first Starliner capsule. Credit: Walter Scriptunas II / Spaceflight Now

With the STP-3 mission out of the way, ULA’s first launch of 2021 will carry Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft into orbit on a test flight to the International Space Station.

The unpiloted demonstration mission, named Orbital Flight Test-2, is a repeat of Boeing’s OFT-1 test flight in December 2019. Software problems on the OFT-1 mission prevented the Starliner spacecraft from docking with the space station, forcing a premature landing under parachutes at White Sands Space Harbor, New Mexico.

Boeing said earlier this month that engineers completed “requalification” of the Starliner software code. The software will undergo an end-to-end test next month to check its functionality throughout a simulated Starliner flight from launch through docking, and from undocking through landing.

The Starliner spacecraft is one of two new crew capsules designed to ferry astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule flew with astronauts for the first time last May, but Boeing’s software problems delayed the Starliner program more than a year.

NASA contracted with Boeing and SpaceX to develop the new crew capsules, ending U.S. reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for astronaut transportation services.

The OFT-2 mission was previously scheduled for liftoff March 29, but NASA and Boeing officials moved the launch date forward to no earlier than March 25 after the STP-3 launch delay.

“The target launch date is enabled by an opening on the Eastern Range, the availability of the United Launch Alliance Atlas 6 rocket, steady progress on hardware and software, and an International Space Station docking opportunity,” NASA said in a statement.

United Launch Alliance’s mission poster for the Atlas 5 launch with the STP-3 payloads, with illustrations of the STPSat 6 and LPDE 1 spacecraft. Credit: United Launch Alliance

“Boeing recently mated the spacecraft’s reusable crew module on its brand new service module inside the Starliner production factory at Kennedy Space Center in Florida,” NASA said. “Teams are working to complete outfitting of the vehicle’s interior before loading cargo and conducting final spacecraft checkouts.”

Assuming the week-long OFT-2 test flight goes well, Boeing hopes to launch the Starliner’s first Crew Flight Test with a three-person crew as soon as mid-2021. The three astronauts will dock with the space station, where they are expected to spend one-to-two weeks before coming back to Earth.

After the Crew Flight Test, NASA will certify the Starliner to fly on operational crew rotation missions to the space station. Those flights will carry four astronauts and last up to seven months.


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Odp: [SFN] Starliner test flight next on ULA’s launch schedule
« Odpowiedź #21 dnia: Styczeń 27, 2021, 04:12 »