[U, X3] In The ‘Space Is Hard’ Department: Boeing Starliner Fuels Out, Before Correct Orbit Achieved…

UPDATED, Late Friday Afternoon, Eastern: For its part, Boeing is officially saying that the Starliner’s onboard / internal clock was slower than the actual mission elapsed time’s duration. Thus, the thrusters fired too late to lift the spacecraft up to the ISS’s assigned orbit. It was already being bent back toward our surface — being recaptured by Earth’s gravity — and was thus too darn low, when the thrusters finally fired. So it hangs now, in no man’s land. Not likely to dock with ISS — more likely to land safely back at White Sands, in under 48 hours in a week, or so. Touchdown now set for 7:57 AM EST, Sunday morning. End, updated portions.

In addition to the widely notorious 737 Max engineering problems, Boeing and its Starliner commercial near Earth orbital launch program have had a very tough 2019.

This early morning, in what is likely going to turn out to be due to some sub-routine anomaly, the spacecraft software [updated: fired too darn late!] / consumed too much fuel in controlling the orbital burn — thinking, as it were, far more precision was required [with the wrong software routine invoked(?)]. . . and thus left itself with too little fuel to lift the capsule all the way to the ISS. From CNBC, here — and, a bit:

. . . .“The Boeing Starliner space vehicle experienced an off nominal insertion. The spacecraft currently is in safe and stable configuration. Flight controllers have completed a successful initial burn and are assessing next steps. Boeing and NASA are working together to review options for the test and mission opportunities available while the Starliner remains in orbit,” a Boeing spokesperson said. . . .

As we’ve long said, space is indeed unforgiving. On most tasks, you only get one shot to get it right — when that fails, it is usually game over. We will wait and see if something might be improvised to lift the capsule — but it may require a new mission, from the Cape.

So it goes, with life down here, as well, from time to time. . . grin.


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