If at first you don't succeed, fly, fly again: Boeing to repeat CST-100 test, Russia preps another ISS taxi

A reflight beckons for Starliner as rival SpaceX admits: 'Rockets are hard'

Roundup Boeing is to repeat December's CST-100 test while Russia prepares for what might be the last launch of its space station taxi monopoly in this week's wrangling of rocket news.

Boeing to refly Starliner

Troubled aviation giant Boeing has opted to have another crack at the Orbital Flight Test mission of its calamity capsule, Starliner.

Its first attempt went spectacularly wrong after a borked mission timer and buggy code led to a failure to dock with the International Space Station (ISS). A potential loss of vehicle was also dodged thanks to engineers not hurriedly patching code to avoid a possible "recontact" between Starliner and its service module ahead of re-entry.

As it turned out, the capsule landed safely after its truncated mission last December.

It had been looking increasingly likely that a reflight would be required as the level of borkery was revealed during investigation. Shoddy coding, iffy validation and a lack of end-to-end testing were all highlighted, and a charge taken against its earnings in January made a reflight of the mission look all the more likely, even though NASA insisted last month that no decision had been taken.

Douglas Loverro, NASA's Associate Administrator for Human Exploration and Operations, tweeted his satisfaction at Boeing's move, which the aeroplane maker said would involve a second Starliner vehicle and come "at no cost to the taxpayer".

While there is no firm date for the reflight, it will likely come after SpaceX's first crewed mission of its new Crew Dragon capsule, currently pencilled in for May. Should that be a success, operational missions of the capsule will likely follow.

Crumplesteelskin? It was a 'configuration error' that did for the latest Starship

As SpaceX engineers picked up the pieces from Elon Musk's very own Swamp Castle, the SpaceX boss confirmed his earlier suspicion of the cause for the collapse of Starship SN3.

The collapse of the stack had the simplest of causes – the top tank was too heavy, and there was not enough pressure below it to avoid the dread sound of crumpling metal.

Oops. Explaining that it was a new system and the gang had simply "commanded" SN3 "wrong", Musk reminded fans that: "Rockets are hard."

It was the fourth attempt that stayed up for Michael Palin's King of Swamp Castle in Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Hopefully the same will apply for SN4, the next Starship prototype.

One final hurrah for Dragon and the last time Russia gets to be the only ISS taxi?

The last of the first variant of Dragon freighters is due to depart the ISS today.

Loaded with gear, the spacecraft will be released at 13:15 UTC, ending a 29-day stay attached to the outpost. The CRS-20 mission will splash down in the Pacific, bringing with it experiments and cargo for processing on Earth.

Since the retirement of the Space Shuttle, SpaceX has been the only game in town when it comes to returning gear in any meaningful quantities. A few kilos can be squeezed onto a Soyuz, but it pales when compared to what the Shuttle was capable of.

The next Dragon to dock will be the crewed variant of the next generation of the spacecraft.

However, before the longed-for crewed flight from US soil can get under way, Russia's workhorse Soyuz, currently at its Kazakhstan launch pad, will get to be the only means of ISS access one last time. Assuming all goes well for SpaceX in the coming weeks and months.

Soyuz MS-16, carrying NASA 'naut Chris Cassidy and Roscosmos fliers Anatoly Ivanishin and Ivan Vagner, is due for launch on Thursday 9 April at 0805 UTC. The original cosmonauts were swapped for their backups in February due to medical issues.

The trio, expedition 63, will spend 195 days aboard the ISS. Current ISS commander Oleg Skripochka and NASA astronauts Andrew Morgan and Jessica Meir are due to return to Earth on Soyuz MS-15 on 17 April. ®

Other stories you might like

  • North Korea pulled in $400m in cryptocurrency heists last year – report

    Plus: FIFA 22 players lose their identity and Texas gets phony QR codes

    In brief Thieves operating for the North Korean government made off with almost $400m in digicash last year in a concerted attack to steal and launder as much currency as they could.

    A report from blockchain biz Chainalysis found that attackers were going after investment houses and currency exchanges in a bid to purloin funds and send them back to the Glorious Leader's coffers. They then use mixing software to make masses of micropayments to new wallets, before consolidating them all again into a new account and moving the funds.

    Bitcoin used to be a top target but Ether is now the most stolen currency, say the researchers, accounting for 58 per cent of the funds filched. Bitcoin accounted for just 20 per cent, a fall of more than 50 per cent since 2019 - although part of the reason might be that they are now so valuable people are taking more care with them.

    Continue reading
  • Tesla Full Self-Driving videos prompt California's DMV to rethink policy on accidents

    Plus: AI systems can identify different chess players by their moves and more

    In brief California’s Department of Motor Vehicles said it’s “revisiting” its opinion of whether Tesla’s so-called Full Self-Driving feature needs more oversight after a series of videos demonstrate how the technology can be dangerous.

    “Recent software updates, videos showing dangerous use of that technology, open investigations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and the opinions of other experts in this space,” have made the DMV think twice about Tesla, according to a letter sent to California’s Senator Lena Gonzalez (D-Long Beach), chair of the Senate’s transportation committee, and first reported by the LA Times.

    Tesla isn’t required to report the number of crashes to California’s DMV unlike other self-driving car companies like Waymo or Cruise because it operates at lower levels of autonomy and requires human supervision. But that may change after videos like drivers having to take over to avoid accidentally swerving into pedestrians crossing the road or failing to detect a truck in the middle of the road continue circulating.

    Continue reading
  • Alien life on Super-Earth can survive longer than us due to long-lasting protection from cosmic rays

    Laser experiments show their magnetic fields shielding their surfaces from radiation last longer

    Life on Super-Earths may have more time to develop and evolve, thanks to their long-lasting magnetic fields protecting them against harmful cosmic rays, according to new research published in Science.

    Space is a hazardous environment. Streams of charged particles traveling at very close to the speed of light, ejected from stars and distant galaxies, bombard planets. The intense radiation can strip atmospheres and cause oceans on planetary surfaces to dry up over time, leaving them arid and incapable of supporting habitable life. Cosmic rays, however, are deflected away from Earth, however, since it’s shielded by its magnetic field.

    Now, a team of researchers led by the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) believe that Super-Earths - planets that are more massive than Earth but less than Neptune - may have magnetic fields too. Their defensive bubbles, in fact, are estimated to stay intact for longer than the one around Earth, meaning life on their surfaces will have more time to develop and survive.

    Continue reading

Biting the hand that feeds IT © 1998–2022