NASA and Boeing have announced the target date for the launch of the second uncrewed flight test for the Starliner spacecraft. The second test will happen no earlier than Thursday, March 25. Orbital Flight Test-2 is a critical development milestone on Boeing’s path to use Starliner and fly astronauts to the ISS for NASA. The March 25 target date was … Continue reading
Watch Blue Origin conduct a successful flight test of its upgraded capsule set to be used for sub-orbital space tourism services.
NASA and Boeing have revealed a crew change for Boeing’s upcoming Crew Flight Test, which will see the CST-100 Starliner transport three crew members to the International Space Station next year. Barry “Butch” Wilmore will be replacing Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson for the flight, joining Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann for the mission. Ferguson was set to command the mission, … Continue reading
DARPA says its Gremlins Air Vehicle X-61A ‘beautifully’ passed its second round of testing, paving the way for airborne recovery tests scheduled to take place later on this year. The second flight test took place at the US Army Dugway Proving Ground in Utah and involved a series of demonstrations, including autonomous formation station-keeping and rendezvous, testing of its recovery … Continue reading
NASA and Boeing are making progress towards conducting the second uncrewed flight for the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. That second uncrewed flight has to happen before the Boeing spacecraft can take astronauts to the ISS as part of the NASA Commercial Crew Program. Currently, the target date for the uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 is no earlier than December 2020. Hitting that … Continue reading
SpaceX returned two NASA astronauts to Earth on Sunday after flying them to the International Space Station. The mission, called Demo-2, flew the first crewed US spacecraft since the end of NASA's space shuttle program in 2011. SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship is a product of NASA's Commercial Crew program, a partnership between the space agency and private companies. Boeing is also building a spaceship as part of the program, but SpaceX's progressed faster. Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories. SpaceX and NASA celebrated a major milestone on Sunday: the completion of the world's first crewed commercial spaceflight. The company's Crew Dragon spaceship carried two NASA astronauts into orbit and docked to the space station two months ago, then returned on Sunday in a fiery plunge through Earth's atmosphere. The mission, called Demo-2, was the last major test before NASA certifies the Crew Dragon to carry more people into space. "This day heralds a new age of space exploration," Elon Musk, SpaceX's CEO, said during a NASA TV broadcast after the splashdown, adding, "I'm not very religious, but I prayed for this one." Since NASA ended its space-shuttle program in 2011, the agency has relied exclusively on Russia to ferry its astronauts to and from orbit in Soyuz spacecraft. But those seats have gotten increasingly expensive, and the world's space agencies have had no alternative for launching and returning astronauts, even when technical glitches have arisen. That's what spurred NASA to launch its Commercial Crew program, which was designed to facilitate the development of new American-made spacecraft. The program put private firms in competition for billions of dollars' worth of government contracts. SpaceX and Boeing came out on top, and SpaceX's spaceship passed its tests and became ready for astronauts first. Here's how NASA came to rely on the two companies to resurrect American spaceflight.SEE ALSO: 27 epic images show how SpaceX made history by flying NASA astronauts to and from the space station DON'T MISS: Telescope video captured SpaceX's Crew Dragon spaceship attached to space station, 250 miles above Earth NASA astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken are now the first people ever to fly in a commercial spacecraft. Both men are spaceflight veterans and were deeply involved in SpaceX's efforts to design its Crew Dragon spaceship. "This has been a quite an odyssey the last five, six, seven, eight years," Hurley said during a NASA live broadcast after the recent landing. "To be where we are now — the first crewed flight of Dragon — is just unbelievable." Crew Dragon launched into space with the two astronauts inside atop a Falcon 9 rocket on May 30. The mission, called Demo-2, was a demonstrate meant to show that the launch system and spaceship could safely transport people. The next day, the capsule docked to the International Space Station, where it stayed for two months. Aboard the space station, Behnken and Hurley conducted science experiments, routine maintenance, and a couple of spacewalks. On Saturday, Behnken and Hurley climbed back into the capsule, which they'd named Endeavour, and undocked from the space station. The next day, they survived a fiery plunge back to Earth. "It felt like we were inside of an animal," Behnken said in a briefing on Tuesday. Parachutes slowed the fall, and Endeavour landed in the Gulf of Mexico at 2:48 p.m. ET on Sunday, off the coast of Pensacola, Florida. Recovery teams helped the astronauts out of the capsule and gave them a medical check. The men were fine but found it difficult to stand; that's normal for ISS astronauts, since their bodies become accustomed to floating in space. Prior to the Demo-2 mission, the last US rocket-and-spaceship system to carry astronauts to and from space was Atlantis, NASA's last space shuttle. It launched and landed in July 2011. After 135 shuttle missions, NASA retired the program so it could direct funds towards long-term missions to the moon and, eventually, Mars. Since then, NASA has relied on Russia's Soyuz system to ferry its astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Soyuz has been the only human-rated spacecraft that can ferry people to and from the $150 billion, football-field-size orbiting laboratory.  Russia has nearly quadrupled its prices for NASA over a decade. In 2008, a single round-trip flight for a NASA astronaut cost about $22 million; by 2018, that price had soared to about $81 million. As of late last year the price is about $85 million, according to CNN. Additionally, two recent incidents raised concerns about the reliability and safety of Soyuz rockets. In August 2018, a Soyuz began leaking air into space while attached to the space station. A small hole was found and investigated by cosmonauts. Russian authorities think the hole came from a manufacturing accident with a drill that was hastily covered up. Then that October, a Soyuz rocket failed during launch. The space capsule, which was carrying one American and one Russian, automatically jettisoned away, and they walked away uninjured. Despite these issues, the world's space agencies had no other options for getting their astronauts to and from the space station. NASA's Commercial Crew Program has been developing alternative launch systems since 2010. The competition asked private companies to build new astronaut-ready spacecraft. Once the program is complete, the agency will have doled out more than $8 billion in awards and contracts over about a decade. "We don't want to purchase, own, and operate the hardware the way we used to. We want to be one customer of many customers in a very robust commercial marketplace in low-Earth orbit," Jim Bridenstine, NASA's administrator, said ahead of the Demo-2 landing. From dozens of hopefuls, two contenders made it through the competition: SpaceX and Boeing. Both of their spacecraft are designed to fly up to seven passengers to and from Earth's orbit. SpaceX, which Musk founded in 2002, designed the Crew Dragon, a 14,000-pound spaceship that's made to be reusable. The vehicle is SpaceX's biggest spaceflight achievement yet, but it's just the beginning of Musk's ambitions. "This is hopefully the first step on a journey towards civilization on Mars, of life becoming multiplanetary, a base on the moon, and expanding beyond Earth," he told reporters after the Demo-2 launch. Boeing, a century-old aerospace company, created the CST-100 Starliner, also a reusable capsule. It's made to land back on Earth using airbags, rather than splashing into the ocean. Before Boeing launches astronauts on the the CST-100 Starliner, it will re-do an uncrewed flight test, since the first attempt unearthed critical issues. In total, NASA selected nine astronauts to fly the Boeing and SpaceX spaceships on the demonstration missions and first official crewed missions. The group includes former space-shuttle flyers, ex-military test pilots, rookies, and — critically — four astronauts (including Behnken and Hurley) who'd been testing and providing feedback on the commercial ships for years. Before humans could fly in the new spacecraft, NASA required a robust series of test flights and demonstrations. In one such test, the Crew Dragon flew to the space station without a crew in March 2019 — making it the first commercial vehicle to ever do so. In that mission, called Demo-1, the spaceship launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, then linked up to the International Space Station for five days. The only passengers were a crash-test dummy named Ripley, 400 pounds of cargo, and a fuzzy toy Earth. Officials declared the test a complete success after the capsule splashed down in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Florida. Bridenstine described the successful mission as "the dawn of a new era in American human spaceflight, and really in spaceflight for the entire world." But later demos hit snags. SpaceX did not pass an April 2019 test that simulated a parachute failure. The test was meant to examine what would happen if one parachute didn't deploy during a flight. SpaceX tried to simulate the situation, leaving only three parachutes to break the fall. Unfortunately, the other parachutes didn't properly deploy, either. However, the Crew Dragon parachutes eventually received approval after undergoing 27 rounds of testing. They performed as planned when Behnken and Hurley landed. William Gerstenmaier, NASA's associate administrator for human exploration and operations at the time, told Spaceflight Now that similar problems arose during Boeing's parachute tests. That same month, a Crew Dragon capsule exploded during a test-firing on the ground. NASA and SpaceX both welcomed the surprise failure. The mysterious explosion occurred as the capsule fired the large engines designed to help it escape a failing rocket. "Ensuring that our systems meet rigorous safety standards and detecting anomalies like this prior to flight are the main reasons why we test," SpaceX said on the day of the failure. Kathy Lueders, who managed the Commercial Crew Program and now leads NASA's Human Spaceflight Office, called the explosion "a huge gift for us" in terms of making the ship safer to fly. Boeing launched its Starliner capsule toward the space station for the first time in December 2019. Nobody was inside — just a mannequin named Rosie. There was also some food, Christmas presents, and other cargo for astronauts aboard the space station. But the Starliner suffered a major glitch with a clock about 31 minutes after launch, causing it to veer off-course. To save the uncrewed ship from total failure, Boeing skipped its docking with the space station — the main objective of the mission — and used the remaining propellant to stabilize the capsule's orbit and get it home. On its early return to Earth, the capsule relied on impact-absorbing airbags to land safely in the desert. A NASA safety panel revealed in February that the Starliner had also suffered a second software issue, which ground controllers patched in the middle of the test flight. Boeing and NASA officials said the error could have caused a collision between two units of the spacecraft: the crew module and the service module. The error prompted NASA to launch a larger investigation into Boeing's coding and culture.   NASA and Boeing have decided to re-do that uncrewed mission before the company launches its first astronauts. The re-do is planned for October or November, according to The Washington Post, but officials have declined to offer a timeline for the Starliner's first astronaut flight. Before they could carry people, both spaceships also had to prove they can jettison astronauts to safety in the unlikely event of a rocket-launch failure. Such failures have happened to both the Space Shuttle and Soyuz systems, so having an escape plan is essential. Boeing passed the ground test of the Starliner's abort system in November 2019. The capsule rocketed nearly a mile into the air, then parachuted back to the ground. The entire flight lasted 1.5 minutes. SpaceX demonstrated its escape system in January, by turning off one of its Falcon 9 rockets mid-flight while a Crew Dragon was perched on top. The rocket was traveling at around twice the speed of sound when SpaceX shut it down. At that moment, the Crew Dragon detached, fired its own thrusters, and sped away from the soon-to-explode rocket. The ship landed in the ocean under four giant parachutes. "It went as well as one could possibly expect," Musk said of the escape-system demonstration.     Overall, the Commercial Crew program has run years past its deadline. Boeing and SpaceX were supposed to have their systems certified by 2017, according to a report from the Government Accountability Office. "Most of us are just way past ready for this to happen. It has taken a lot longer than anybody thought," Wayne Hale, a retired NASA space-shuttle program manager, told Business Insider in January. Eventually, a round-trip seat on the Crew Dragon is expected to cost about $55 million. A seat on Starliner will cost about $90 million. NASA has contracted six round-trip flights on Crew Dragon. Behnken's wife, Megan McArthur, will pilot the second one. "What we did for Bob, I think we can do an even better job for Megan," SpaceX President Gwynne Shotwell said after the Demo-2 splashdown. NASA also plans to open the space station to tourists for $35,000 per night. Last year NASA announced it would allow two private astronauts per year to stay up to 30 days each on the space station.   Holly Secon contributed reporting. Do you have a story or inside information to share about the spaceflight industry? Send Dave Mosher an email at [email protected] or a Twitter direct message at @davemosher. More secure communication options are listed here.
"We should think about this as a springboard to doing even harder things."
Aussie airline Qantas is running a direct flight from Heathrow to Sydney tomorrow, carrying an invited passenger list of just 50 people on the 18.5-hour direct flight around the world.It's being described as a "research flight" to see how passengers and crew take to the idea of being in the air for such a long time.This is the second flight Qantas is running as part of its Project Sunrise scheme, to test appetite for and organise the onboard staff scheduling of non-stop flights of such extreme duration.The first Sunrise test flew from New York to Sydney earlier this year, and tomorrow's UK-Australia ultra-haul is carrying out another piece of key airline business on the side too – it's the delivery flight of a brand new 787 Dreamliner, which would've crossed the world empty otherwise.Qantas says the last time a commercial flight did UK-Sydney direct was in 1989, such a long time ago that everyone's forgotten how tortuous it was and is ready to try again.
On Thursday, NASA invited media to the launch of Boeing's Starliner spacecraft from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.The news release included a launch date for the mission: December 17.This uncrewed test flight will validate the in-flight capabilities of the Starliner vehicle and the Atlas V rocket that will launch it into orbit.This mission is a precursor to human flights on Starliner, which NASA has paid Boeing to develop for astronaut transport to the International Space Station.Starliner’s first flight delayed, crew mission not likely before 2020NASA's invitation is notable because Boeing's "Orbital Flight Test-1" notional launch date has slipped several times, and NASA generally only sends a request for press credentials when it is fairly confident in a launch date.
NASA will fly in the near future a crewed X-plane, one of the experimental aircraft it created to test various technologies, for the first time in two decades.This X-plane, the X-57 Maxwell to be exact, is significant for another reason, too: It’s the first fully electric experimental plane that NASA will fly.The delivery of the X-57 Maxwell to NASA’s Armstrong Flight Research Center in California means they can begin ground testing, which will be followed by flight testing once they confirm through the ground testing phase that it’s flight-ready.This all-electric X-57 is just one of a number of modified vehicles that will not only help NASA researchers test electric propulsion systems for aircraft, but will also help them set up standards, design practices and certification plans alongside industry for forthcoming electric aerial transportation options, including the growing industry springing up around electric vertical take-off and landing aircraft for short-distance transportation.NASA plans to share the results of its testing and flights of the all-electric X-57, as well as its other modified versions, with industry and other agencies and regulatory bodies.The X-plane project also provides another way for NASA to work toward a number of technical challenges that will have big benefits in terms of everyday commercial aerial transportation, like boosting vehicle efficiency and lowering noise to develop planes that are far less disturbing to people on the ground.
NASA has a bold plan to send not only a rover but also a helicopter to Mars as part of its Mars 2020 mission.The autonomous Mars Helicopter, which NASA hopes will be the first aircraft to fly on another planet, successfully passed its flight tests and vacuum and deployment tests.Now, the helicopter has been attached to the Mars 2020 rover ready for its journey to the red planet.The rover was secured onto a plate on the rover’s belly and covered by a shield to protect the delicate machine from rocks and other debris which will be kicked up during entry and landing on Mars.Once the craft has landed safely, the helicopter will emerge from behind its shield and be sent into the sky to explore the Jezero Crater region around the landing zone.As the helicopter is a highly experimental piece of equipment, the engineers won’t be relying on it to collect any important scientific data.
On August 14th, a drone weighing 1,215 pounds took off from the tarmac at an air base in Camp Roberts, California.It reached a height of 10 feet, hovered for 64 seconds, and then landed.It was the first successful test flight for Elroy Air, a San Francisco-based startup that aims to put its heavy-lift cargo drones in the air, delivering larger-than-average payloads by 2020.It’s a modest beginning to what could eventually become a trillion-dollar business, if you believe the analysts who think autonomous drone delivery — in particular, cargo drone delivery — has the potential to disrupt the logistics industry.Elroy is among a handful of startups focused on vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) aircraft, but for aerial delivery rather than air taxis and flying cars.Elroy also stands apart from the collection of companies testing delivery drones.
SpaceX has completed a second low-altitude test flight of its ‘Starhopper’ demonstration prototype, which is being used to test technologies that will be used to build the full-scale next-generation SpaceX ‘Starship’ spacecraft.This test involved ‘hopping’ the Starhopper (hence the name, get it?)to a height of around 150m (or a little under 500 feet), the highest it’s flown so far, at a SpaceX test facility in Texas.After the hop, which lasted around 50 seconds (the GIF above is sped up 2X) it successfully navigated itself to a target landing pad a short distance away.This is the second untethered test trip for the Starhopper, and will is intended to be its last, as SpaceX moves forward with construction of its Starship Mk I and Mk II prototypes, which is taking place currently and simultaneously at sites in Florida and Texas.Today’s attempt was the second try after a planned test yesterday was aborted at the last second, with SpaceX resetting and ensuring everything was in place for this longer hop, which lasted a full 60 seconds.
Starhopper didn't have legs on Monday.After two hours of waiting, the rocket prototype's second test was aborted at the last second, just after 6 p.m. Texas time."Starhopper" is the single-engine version of the SpaceX Starship, the next-generation spacecraft Musk plans to use to send people around the moon and to Mars in the next decade.This second test was delayed from earlier in August and then pushed back by two hours on Monday.Musk did not give a reason for the delay.Prior to Monday's test, residents near the company's Boca Chica, Texas, facility were warned that a potential malfunction could unleash pressure waves strong enough to break windows in the area.
4:20pm ET Monday Update: Per SpaceX founder Elon Musk, the company is working toward a "hop" test at 6pm ET (22:00 UTC) Monday.Original post: As soon as Monday afternoon, SpaceX may attempt a second flight for its Starship prototype named "Starhopper."The stubby vehicle, which resembles a water tower, will seek to make a controlled flight to 150 meters above the ground before returning to land safely at SpaceX's test site in South Texas.One month ago, Starhopper made its first untethered flight, rising about 20 meters.This weekend, Cameron County officials notified residents in Boca Chica Village, near the test site, that the company plans to conduct a flight test from 4pm to 4:15pm CT Monday, and "there is a risk that a malfunction of the SpaceX vehicle during flight will create an overpressure event that can break windows."SpaceX’s Starship prototype has taken flight for the first time
A new company that aims to build and sell planes that run on hydrogen-powered electricity emerged from stealth Wednesday.ZeroAvia, based in Hollister, Calif., claims its planes will be cheaper to manufacture and fly than standard jet fuel-powered vehicles, while also producing none of the carbon emissions that make the aviation industry one of the worst polluters.ZeroAvia plans to initially target small planes of 10-20 seats that fly short, regional hops of up to 500 miles.The company has conducted a number of successful flight tests using its prototype in a Piper M-class airframe.At a 2-ton takeoff weight and six seats in a business-class arrangement, the prototype is currently the world’s largest zero-emission aircraft flying without any fossil fuel support, according to the company.The Federal Aviation Administration authorized ZeroAvia to operate its prototype for test flights earlier this year.
Fancy commuting to work in your own personal flying machine?Japanese tech firm NEC believes the idea is not as far-fetched as it might sound, and has been developing a passenger drone with such an aim in mind.In a bold bid to reach its goal, NEC has partnered with Cartivator, a Japanese tech startup backed by Toyota, among others.This week NEC offered a demonstration of the drone-like vehicle, which can best be described as an over-sized quadcopter with enough space for one or two people.The trial flight took place in the city of Abiko, just outside Tokyo.A video posted on YouTube shows a team of engineers wearing hard hats looking on as the battery-powered aircraft rises slowly off the ground, reaching an altitude of about 10 feet.
If you had August circled on your calendar to watch Boeing send its first Starliner to the International Space Station, you might be disappointed.NASA appears to have wiped the August schedule off the board and replaced it with a message that Boeing and SpaceX flight test dates for the Commercial Crew Program are now "under review."The two private companies are both working on crew capsules designed to launch astronauts from US soil to the ISS.NASA has been relying for years on Russian rockets and spacecraft to transport personnel.NASA had been making an effort to offer more timely updates on flight test schedules, but that approach managed to highlight the delays.Space developments rarely happen on clean, linear timelines.
SpaceX completed a successful test flight of its Starhopper prototype vehicle on Thursday night.Elon Musk tweeted two videos of the 20-second flight from a camera mounted just above the vehicle's engine, and another from a drone.Musk tweeted Starhopper would attempt another "hop" in about a week or two — when he said it would travel 200 meters.Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.SpaceX on Thursday managed to successfully test fly the prototype for its Starship rocket, which CEO Elon Musk says will one day take passengers to Mars.It attempted a flight on Wednesday night, but had to abruptly end the test after ignition.
Late on Thursday night, at a launch facility in Boca Chica, Texas, SpaceX performed the first flight test of its next-generation Starship rocket, which may one day carry humans to Mars.This time around, the prototype vehicle, dubbed Starhopper, was supposed to stay close to home: The plan was for it to fire up its Raptor engine, rise to an altitude of about 60 feet, move sideways a few yards, and land.But when the smoke cleared, Starhopper was back on the ground, not far from where it had started.It’s the first step toward test flights in the upper atmosphere, which Elon Musk said would “hopefully” occur in the next few months.Starship looks as though it was plucked straight from the pages of a pulp science fiction novel.Starhopper, however, is much shorter: In January, strong winds toppled the rocket’s nose cone, so SpaceX decided to do the first hop without it.