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Boeing’s Starliner launch will bring new cargo and science to the space station

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Boeing’s Starliner launch will bring new cargo and science to the space station

The Boeing Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT-2) mission to the International Space Station is scheduled to launch on Thursday (May 19) at 18:54 on EDT (2254 GMT) from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

This is the second test mission without a company crew Starliner The capsule serves as an important step in NASA spacecraft certification for human spaceflight following the incomplete initial OFT mission in December 2019 and valve problems that have delayed the launch of OFT-2 from summer 2021 to the present.

AFT-2 will transport more than 500 pounds (225 kilograms) of cargo to the orbital laboratory, at least 440 pounds (200 kg) of which consist of food and supplies for the station’s current crew. Other payloads have been provided by Boeing and include, among other memorabilia, such as flags and studs dedicated to historically black colleges and the United States University (HBCU).

“Closing gaps in representation in our company and our industry is a priority for Boeing, and inspiring a variety of students for careers in aerospace is an important part of that effort,” Boeing President and CEO David Calhoun said in a statement last year.

Make your second trip aboard the Starliner will also be kindly named a mannequin for flight tests Rosie the rocket launcher. Rosie rode aboard the first OFT and provided engineers with data on the load of G-force on the body during launch. For this flight, according to a Boeing statement, the same sensors used for Rosie on the OFT-1 will be used to directly measure the load on the car’s four seats. (Rosie’s main function at OFT-2 will be to provide ballast, mission team members said.)

Launches of robotic cargo to the space station are common, occurring every few months with the rotation of the ships of “Russian Progress” and two private American vehicles – the spacecraft Cygnus from Northrop Grumman and SpaceX. Dragon capsule. These cargo ships are transporting large cargoes to the ISS, and the reusable Dragon is also returning gear. (Progress and Swan burn up in the Earth’s atmosphere when their time on the ISS is over.)

Speaking about the benefits of NASA’s commercial program at a briefing ahead of the first scheduled attempt to launch OFT-2 last year, NASA’s Deputy Chief Scientist for International Space Station ProgramJennifer Buchley noted the benefits of being able to transport more astronauts and scientific equipment at a faster rate than Starliner can help:

“Having more crew in orbit and more cargo from the ISS means we can do more science,” Buchley said. “We do conduct a wide range of experiments in everything from human research to fluid physics, to demonstrations of technology, life sciences, and education.”

To date, NASA has completed more than 3,000 experiments in the orbital laboratory, which since the end of 2000 has continuously received crews of astronauts. These experiments, which vary in size and composition, form part of the cargo that is regularly transported to, and sometimes back from, the International Space Station.

However, it does not appear that Starliner will carry significant scientific equipment for the orbital laboratory in the future mission. According to NASA, the OFT-2 cargo includes “food and crew benefits for current expedition crew members at the station and provisions, such as clothing and sleeping bags, for CFT astronauts.” (CFT stands for “Crew Flight Test,” the first Starliner astronaut mission Boeing and NASA plan to launch later this year if all goes well with OFT-2.)

For OFT-2, science is first and foremost the spacecraft itself (and, to a lesser extent, Rosie the Rocket). Before you tether them on board for a flight with a crew, it’s important to check if the Starliner is ready for astronauts.

OFT-2 seeks to demonstrate that Starliner can meet and dock with the space station, a task it failed to accomplish during the initial OFT after suffers from a number of software crashes. To do this, the car will use a device known as VESTA (electro-optical tracking sensor based on Vision).

Speaking on NASA’s “Houston, We Have a Podcast” program, Amy Como, a design engineer in the Boeing Starliner’s chief engineer’s office, described VESTA as the “main focus” of the OFT-2 target for docking with the station. She described a set of VESTA cameras that was designed to distinguish the visual features of a space station in the same way as humans:

The system uses visual signals on the space station … such as solar panels, stickers, modules, etc., and uses star tracker information to be able to interpret [in] in real time, the exact location of Starliner relative to the position of the International Space Station. And that’s why this information actually enters our flight computers, which eventually transfer the spacecraft to the appropriate port of docking. “

At a news conference on May 11 after successfully testing the flight readiness of Starliner, NASA Deputy Chief Air Officer Emily Nelson noted that VESTA is “one of the most important and in fact the coolest sensors they have. [the] spaceship ”.

According to Nelson, as soon as flight operators confirm that VESTA “sees the space station correctly and determines where it should go,” Starliner will begin a series of demonstration maneuvers. “The spacecraft will stop to demonstrate that if we tell it to stop, it will actually stop. Some will automatically retreat to demonstrate that we have such an opportunity to retreat. And then we will start the final meeting and docking, ”Nelson said.

According to NASA, Starliner will remain docked to the ISS for five to eight days before parachuting to Earth somewhere in the western United States. When he returns, he will be carrying nearly 600 pounds (270 kg) of cargo, including three of dozens of NORS tanks (the “Nitrogen and Oxygen Recharge System”).

NORS tanks provide atmospheric gases to the space station. These tanks are often returned on cargo missions, and most recently one accompanied the crew of a first-class private Mission Ax-1 back to Earth in them SpaceX Dragon capsule last month. However, OFT-2 will be the first mission to return three NORS tanks at once, said at a briefing on May 11 Joel Montalbana, NASA’s ISS program manager.

During a OFT-2 review press conference on May 3, Montalbana summed up the Starliner cargo, saying: “Most of the cargo that will be lifted will be food, and therefore just over 450,460 pounds [204 to 209 kg] … And then, coming back, we’ll bring home some NORS tanks, nitrogen and oxygen recharging tanks that we have on board. They are used, and so we will return them to the ground, repair, and then fly again. And here are the highlights. We also fly small equipment for cars, as well as equipment for space travel.

Most Boeing cargoes will also return to Earth with Starliner at the end of OFT-2. In addition to flags and studs representing the legacy of HBCU, other memorabilia on OFT-2 flying into space include Rosie Rivet coins honoring women in the aerospace industry during World War II, the seeds of five different species of trees that repeat «moon tree”Efforts first undertaken Apollo cosmonaut Stu Rose in 1971, as well as the company’s original identity card issued to Boeing founder Bill Boeing, which bears his signature.

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