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Boeing and Rocket Lab hope for the best as both return to launchpad following failures

Space is hard

Two spacecraft with a lot to prove are ready for launch in the coming days.

The first is Boeing's Calamity Capsule, the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, which is scheduled for take off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

The mission to the International Space Station (ISS) is a do-over after the near catastrophe of Boeing's first uncrewed test where a variety of cockups due to iffy testing resulted in the capsule having to make an early return to Earth.

SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule, despite a whoopsie of its own, has since been ferrying astronauts to and from the ISS while Boeing worked out the problems.

Boeing has rather a lot riding on this launch, as well as the Starliner. After a hellish time financially in 2020, the company reported a 44 per cent year-on-year rise in revenue to $16.99bn for calendar Q2. Its operating cash flow was negative to the tune of $483m, albeit better than a year ago when its outgoing money was $5.28bn.

A successful mission would therefore smooth furrowed brows at all levels within the company. Launch is scheduled for 1853 UTC on 30 July if the weather plays ball. The current forecast predicts a 40 per cent chance of favourable conditions.

Small sat launcher Rocket Lab will also be attempting a return to flight this week with a launch from its New Zealand Launch Complex 1 for the US Space Force.

The mission, the window of which extends for 12 days from 29 July (from 0600-0800 UTC), is to deploy an Air Force Research Laboratory-sponsored demonstration satellite called Monolith and has been dubbed "It's a Little Chile Up Here" in a nod to the green chile of New Mexico where the Space Test Program is based.

The mission is the 21st Electron launch and had been supposed to fly from Launch Complex 2 at the Mid-Atlantic Regional Spaceport on NASA's Wallops Island, Virginia. The ongoing certification process for Rocket Lab's autonomous flight termination system has resulted in the move to New Zealand.

The mission's predecessor, "Running Out Of Toes", ended in failure after a problem with the second stage engine igniter borked the engine computer and sent the Rutherford engine's thrust vector control "outside nominal parameters", causing a premature shutdown.

The Electron first stage was not affected and was recovered from the ocean as planned. ®

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