Launch ULA Atlas V Starliner Mission - Dec 20, 2019 (1 Viewer)


WesL

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Big launch for Boeing and ULA later this week. It will be the demo mission for the Boeing Starliner capsule which is in the running to help restart the process of launching U.S. astronauts from U.S. soil. The demo flight is scheduled to take place on Dec 20 and will be launched via a ULA Atlas V rocket that was built in Decatur, AL.

The latest weather update from today shows favorable launch conditions.

Overall probability of violating weather constraints: 20%
Primary concerns: Cumulus cloud rule, ground winds

Overall probability of violating weather constraints for 24-hour delay: 30%
Primary concern: Cumulus cloud rule, ground winds, flight through participation

I'll post a site to watch the launch on the 19th.

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket is in final preparations to launch Boeing’s Starliner capsule on the Orbital Flight Test to the International Space Station (ISS). The launch is planned for Dec. 20, at 6:36 a.m. from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

The Atlas V rocket will deliver Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to a 98-nautical mile (nmi) sub-orbital trajectory. Following separation from the Atlas V, the Starliner engines will propel the spacecraft to its final orbit and on to the ISS.

Modified specifically for the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, the Atlas V Starliner configuration does not include a payload fairing. Instead, the Starliner’s own protective surfaces take the place of the fairing to protect the uncrewed spacecraft during ascent. This is the inaugural flight of this configuration.
Notes from ULA press release.
 

WesL

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Updated weather and launch window information from ULA -

Today’s forecast remains a 80 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch. The instantaneous launch is targeted for 6:36:43 a.m. EST. (on Dec 20)

Launch Forecast Summary:

Overall probability of violating weather constraints: 20%
Primary concerns: Cumulus cloud rule, user ground winds

Overall probability of violating weather constraints for 24-hour delay: 30%
Primary concern: Cumulus cloud rule, ground winds, flight through participation
 

WesL

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A little space drama this morning with Starliner . The launch went off without issue. I have a few friends that were in attendance and they said it was an amazing morning launch. Hope everyone gets the chance to see one in their lifetime.



After launch the capsule went through a successful separation from the ULA Centaur second stage rocket. It was at that time that the capsule was to automatically fire its engine to move up to the target orbit to reach the International Space Station. However, an issue with the Mission Elapsed Time clock on board the spacecraft, mixed with a gap in communications coverage (due to incorrect orbit) meant the engine did not fire as expected and the smaller thrusters on board used up a lot of fuel trying to make adjustments. Those thrusters are primarily used during the docking and undocking stages of the mission. Not having them at full capacity would be a major concern for the safety of the ISS and the crew on board the station.


With that being said the mission will not reach the International Space Station as planned. Mission managers are going to conduct a few raising burns during the day today to help adjust the orbit for a landing attempt at White Sands, NM. The earliest landing window is expected to be around 7:20am on Sunday.

It is worth noting that a lot of things went right on this mission. The first and second stages operated as expected, the capsule is safe and the environmental systems are working which was one of the primary objectives of the flight. The key to remember is that if astronauts had been on board the capsule they would have been able to execute a manual burn or issue commands for the thruster system to stop firing. I'm sure this will be a minor setback and it will be interesting to see how forthcoming Boeing is with the root cause analysis.
 
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WesL

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Here is the launch video. I've set it to start a few seconds before launch. For you North Alabama folks it is worth noting that the voice you hear with the final countdown is is Josh Barrett who is a former areospace reporter from WAAY-31 in Huntsville. He left a few years ago and spent some time at the U.S. Space and Rocket Center and then made the jump to Boeing in support of launch communications. Today he lived out my childhood dream of calling a countdown.

 

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NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine released the following statement regarding the Boeing Orbital Flight test:

“I am incredibly proud of the NASA, Boeing, and United Launch Alliance teams and their ongoing work in a dynamic situation to ensure the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is safe on its Orbital Flight Test. The teams continue their work to meet as many mission objectives as possible and return safely to Earth. We continue to gather critical data that will help us ensure safety and reliability for future human space flight missions.

“Early this morning, NASA and Boeing successfully launched Starliner on the first human-rated United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 in Florida.

“The plan was for Starliner to rendezvous and dock with the International Space Station and return home safely to Earth. While a lot of things went right, the uncrewed spacecraft did not reach the planned orbit and will not dock to the International Space Station.

“This is in fact why we test. Teams worked quickly to ensure the spacecraft was in a stable orbit and preserved enough fuel to ensure a landing opportunity.

“Boeing, in coordination with NASA, is working to return Starliner to White Sands, New Mexico, Sunday.

“At NASA we do really difficult things, and we do them all the time. I spoke to Vice President Pence, Chairman of the National Space Council, and he remains very optimistic in our ability to safely launch American astronauts from American soil. We remain positive even though we did face challenges today. We’ll be getting a lot more data in the coming days.

“One of the biggest successes today was watching NASA, Boeing, ULA teams work to make the right decisions for our astronauts and country. We will continue to share information. It’s in the interest of the nation. We’ll share data as soon as possible.”
 

WesL

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Boeing's Starliner capsule had a great landing out in White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico on Sunday. Here is the landing video that is queue up with the first images of the landing from the high altitude reconnaissance aircraft.

 

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