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Boeing Starliner - Third Time Lucky?

Started by Alberon, May 19, 2022, 09:14:53 AM

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Boeing has wheeled its Starliner back to the launch pad for a third attempt at certifying it for humans to ride it.

Wanting a replacement to the Shuttle to get people into space and not wanting to be dependent on Russia's Soyuz NASA got SpaceX and Boeing to develop cheaper and safer launch systems.

SpaceX's Dragon capsule is already up and running having flown six manned missions to the ISS already. More have been flown than expected because Boeing have had problems, and that's putting it mildly.

The first uncrewed flight of the Starliner in December 2019 went wrong when software onboard thought it was later into the mission than it was and ended up spending too much fuel for a docking with the ISS to be attempted. From wikipedia

QuoteTwo software errors detected during the test, one of which prevented a planned docking with the International Space Station, could each have led to the destruction of the spacecraft had they not been caught and corrected in time, NASA said on 7 February 2020. A joint NASA-Boeing investigation team "found the two critical software defects were not detected ahead of flight despite multiple safeguards", according to an agency statement. "Ground intervention prevented the loss of the vehicle in both cases". Before re-entry, engineers discovered the second critical software error that affected the thruster firings needed to safely jettison the Starliner's service module. The service module software error "incorrectly translated" the jettison thruster firing sequence.

It was decided, quite obviously, that a second uncrewed mission was needed before the capsule could be declared safe enough to carry people. Boeing said that it would pay for the second launch itself.

The Starliner returned to the launch pad in August 2021.

QuoteDuring the August 2021 launch window some issues were detected with 13 propulsion system valves in the spacecraft prior to launch. The spacecraft had already been mated to its launch rocket, United Launch Alliance's (ULA) Atlas V, and taken to the launchpad. Attempts to fix the problem while on the launchpad failed, and the rocket was returned to the ULA's VIF (Vertical Integration Facility). Attempts to fix the problem at the VIF also failed and Boeing decided to return the spacecraft to the factory, thus cancelling the launch at that launch window. The valves had been corroded by intrusion of moisture, which interacted with the propellant, but the source of the moisture was not apparent. By late September 2021, Boeing had not determined the root cause of the problem, and the flight was delayed indefinitely.

In December Boeing decided to replace the service module and try again.

The launch is now scheduled for just before midnight UK time today.

Boeing has had an absolutely terrible few years (not as bad as the passengers on the planes they've lost due admittedly) and they need this to work. NASA needs this to work as they never want to be dependent on one system ever again.


What are your odds on success ?

I watched or read something recently where someone suggested that the Starliner and SLS projects are just there to keep the legacy firms in business in the face of SpaceX and their dominance and don't 'need' to succeed. I mean it feels like Falcon 9 is just such a reliable and frequent launch platform now that there's no need for anything else, and that Starship will eventually be just as reliable (though that feels a long way away to me).

And it doesn't half look weird on that skinny stage, like some space-bound champignon.


I would think the odds are pretty good. The first flight failed through software bugs, which is really a piss-poor failure for something that's cost hundreds of millions of dollars. Boeing would suffer massively if this fails again. Yes they've fucked up twice before, but you do have to think they know how important this is to their business and finally actually get the thing working.

The SLS especially is just a ridiculous piece of nonsense there for pork barrel politics. It's made from bits derived from the Space Shuttle systems (the solid rocket boosters for instance) and will still cost around $2 billion per launch.

SpaceX's Starship is intended to land NASA Astronauts on the Moon, but you do have to ask why they need the SLS to get them to lunar orbit before swapping over to the Starship for landing. Why not just go all the way there in SpaceX's ship?

If Starship works the SLS is toast. Might be fucked anyway. The plan is to fly an unmanned test flight of the SLS around the moon this year and then manned flights once a year from 2024 with a landing no earlier than 2025. It just needs to slip a little and Starship might get their first.

More flights of the Starship have been held up by an environmental survey of the launch site which has been extended for another month several times. Apparently a lot of changes and upgrades have been made and it shouldn't be too long before the first orbital flight is attempted.

Dex Sawash

Fuckem. I voted for Starliner to be the name of the 787 but they picked Dreamliner which is a shit name for a plane. This thing isn't even comparable to a ship of the line in any way so doesn't deserve the 'liner' moniker. What's the payload, a couple of semen passengers?


Quote from: Dex Sawash on May 19, 2022, 11:29:28 AMFuckem. I voted for Starliner to be the name of the 787 but they picked Dreamliner which is a shit name for a plane. This thing isn't even comparable to a ship of the line in any way so doesn't deserve the 'liner' moniker. What's the payload, a couple of semen passengers?

Ah mate, they're on about Pantyliners not Ocean Liners.

Dex Sawash

Gurke and Hare

Just been outside to try and see this, but it's too cloudy, bah.


I often manage to see Falcon 9 upper stages over York when they launch northward trajectories from Florida, but this passed a bit too south for us to see, plus of course clouds.

The launch footage felt really old school compared to SpaceX coverage.


No major fuckups so far so Boeing must be pleased.

Now they have to dock it with the ISS.


They managed to dock, undock and land the capsule without major problems so Boeing must be breathing a sigh of relief.

There was a small issue with a couple of thrusters not working properly on the orbital insertion burn but apart from that there seems to be no major problems.

The crewed test flight is being aimed at the end of the year.

The Mollusk

Cram this thing full of the rich and just twat it off into the vast beyond for a laugh


It still feels very much like previous generation tech though, the amount of stuff they throw away, on the ascent of course the entire 1st and 2nd stage but even during the landing when they bin the heat shields.


It really is.

I wonder how the launch costs compare with Dragon?


Just found a 2019 NASA report that says Dragon would cost $209m per launch and Starliner $345m.

Though Starliner can carry more cargo.


I guess it's because it looks just like the old Apollo command module, but when you compare it to Dragon visually I don't really get how it can carry more cargo (especially with all the bits it has that don't make it back to earth). And it has the ability to boost the ISS which Dragon doesn't. Perhaps it's just really cramped?

Paul Calf

Well, at least some small part of the torrents of filthy gold pouring into Boeing's coffers from police states and tinpot imperialists in return for massive death machines that simultaneously kill and bankrupt their subjects/victims is going to pay for something shiny and distracting.