أرشيف الوسم: Space industry

Candy, cheese soar to space station to satisfy crew cravings

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A cargo ship is rocketing toward the International Space Station, carrying candy and cheese to satisfy the crew’s cravings

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. —
A cargo ship rocketed toward the International Space Station on Saturday, carrying candy and cheese to satisfy the astronauts’ cravings.

Northrop Grumman launched its Cygnus capsule from the Virginia seashore. The nearly 4-ton shipment should arrive at the orbiting lab Tuesday. It took three tries over the past week to get the Antares rocket off the pad, with it finally taking flight at 3:21 p.m. — an auspicious 3-2-1.

“Awesome launch,” Joel Montalbano, NASA’s deputy space station program manager, said once the capsule reached orbit.

Besides the usual experiments and gear, the capsule holds cheddar and manchego cheeses, fresh fruit and vegetables, chocolate and three kinds of gummy candy expressly requested by the three station astronauts: Skittles, Hot Tamales, and Mike and Ike’s.

Periodic supply runs by Russia, Japan and NASA’s two private shippers, Northrop Grumman and SpaceX, usually provide more than experiments, equipment, clothes and freeze-dried meals. The capsules also bring family care packages, as well as fresh food to offset the run-of-the-mill station grub.

This latest delivery should have arrived well before Valentine’s Day. But last-minute equipment concerns at the Wallops Island launch pad halted last Sunday’s countdown for the Antares rocket, then bad weather moved in. Dangerously high wind scuttled Friday’s attempt.

This was the company’s 13th space station delivery for NASA. The Cygnus capsules get their name from the Swan Constellation.

This particular Cygnus has been christened the SS Robert H. Lawrence in honor of America’s first black astronaut. Lawrence, an Air Force major, was chosen in 1967 as an astronaut for a classified military space program known as the Manned Orbiting Laboratory. He was killed five months later in a plane crash and never flew in space.

The space station is now home for Americans Jessica Meir and Andrew Morgan and Russian Oleg Skripochka. Morgan has been up there since July and the two others since September; they’ll remain on board until April. Three other astronauts returned to Earth earlier this month.

Until astronaut launches resume from Florida — possibly by SpaceX this spring — the station crew will be limited in size to three. NASA astronauts now launch on Russian rockets from Kazakhstan.

Boeing, NASA’s other commercial crew provider, is struggling with software problems in its astronaut capsule. A December test flight was marred by coding errors.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Wind delays Northrop Grumman’s supply run to space station

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High wind has delayed Northrop Grumman’s supply run to the International Space Station

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. —
High wind delayed Northrop Grumman’s supply run to the International Space Station on Friday.

The weather was OK at the launch pad on Wallops Island, Virginia, but upper-level winds exceeded safety limits. The company will try again Saturday at 3:21 p.m. — an easy-to-remember 3-2-1.

It will be Northrop Grumman’s third attempt in under a week to launch its Antares rocket with a Cygnus capsule on top. Sunday’s try was interrupted by pad equipment concerns, then bad weather moved in.

The delivery includes nearly 4 tons of experiments and gear, as well as candy and cheese for the three station astronauts.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Record-setting astronaut feels good after near year in space

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NASA’s new record-setting astronaut says aside from sore muscles, she readjusting well to gravity after nearly 11 months in space

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. —
NASA’s new record-setting astronaut said Wednesday that aside from sore muscles and trouble with balance, she’s readjusting well to gravity after nearly 11 months in space.

Christina Koch met with reporters in Houston six days after returning to Earth from the International Space Station. Her 328-day mission — which ended last Thursday — was the longest ever by a woman.

Her neck hurt for about a day. “I felt like a 2-week-old who was actually working hard to hold up my own head,” she said.

She considers herself lucky she didn’t have the sore feet and burning skin suffered four years ago by NASA’s all-time endurance champ, Scott Kelly, whose mission lasted 340 days.

Koch returned home to Galveston, Texas, to find a kitchen full of chips and salsa, something she’d craved in orbit, along with the Gulf of Mexico. She hit the beach with her husband, Bob, and their dog, a rescue pup named LBD for Little Brown Dog, just three days after her landing in Kazakhstan.

LBD was excited to see her, and vice versa.

“I’m not sure who was more excited to see the other,” Koch said.

Their reunion was recorded. “It’s just a symbol of coming back to the people and places that you love, to see your favorite animal,” she said.

The 41-year-old Koch is an electrical engineer who also has a physics degree. She flew to the space station last March and was part of the first all-female spacewalk in October. Three astronauts remain at the orbiting lab, including the other half of the all-female spacewalk, NASA’s Jessica Meir.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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Defective software could have doomed Boeing’s crew capsule

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NASA says defective software could have doomed Boeing’s crew capsule during its first test flight

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. —
Defective software could have doomed Boeing’s crew capsule during its first test flight, a botched trip that was cut short and never made it to the International Space Station, NASA and company officials said Friday.

The Starliner capsule launched without astronauts in December, but its automatic timer was off by 11 hours, preventing the capsule from flying to the space station as planned. This software trouble — which left the capsule in the wrong orbit just after liftoff — set off a scramble to find more possible coding errors, Boeing officials said.

Hours before the Starliner’s scheduled touchdown, a second software mistake was discovered, this time involving the Starliner’s service module. Flight controllers rushed to fix the problem, which could have caused the cylinder to slam into the capsule once jettisoned during reentry.

Such an impact could have sent the Starliner into a tumble, said Jim Chilton, a senior vice president for Boeing. In addition, damage to the Starliner’s heat shield could have caused the capsule to burn up on reentry, he noted.

He also conceded they wouldn’t have found the second problem without the first.

“Nobody is more disappointed in the issues that we uncovered … than the Starliner team,” said Boeing program manager John Mulholland.

These latest findings stem from a joint investigation team formed by NASA and Boeing in the wake of the aborted test flight. The capsule returned to Earth on Dec. 22 after just two days, parachuting down to a landing in New Mexico.

The mission was supposed to be the company’s last major hurdle before launching the first Starliner crew.

NASA has yet to decide whether Boeing should conduct another test flight without a crew, before putting astronauts on board. Just in case, Boeing reported last week that it took a $410 million charge in its fourth-quarter earnings, to cover a possible mission repeat.

Douglas Loverro, head of NASA’s human exploration and operations mission directorate, said Boeing needs to check and verify all of its flight software before any decisions are made on a possible reflight. He told reporters NASA shares some of the blame for the software problems.

“Our NASA oversight was insufficient. That’s obvious and we recognize that,” he said.

The investigation team also is looking into a third problem, an intermittent space-to-ground communication problem that hampered controllers’ ability to command and manage the capsule early in the flight. Interference from cellphone towers may have exacerbated the matter, Boeing officials said.

NASA said the independent review should be completed by the end of February.

Outside of this ongoing review, NASA is taking an extensive look at Boeing’s culture, according to Loverro. He said it was prompted in part by software issues elsewhere in the company, an apparent reference to the grounded 737 Max fleet.

A second private company is on track to launch astronauts for NASA as early as this spring. SpaceX successfully completed a launch abort test last month at Cape Canaveral.

NASA astronauts have not launched from home soil since the space shuttle program ended in 2011, instead riding Russian rockets to get to the space station. The Soyuz seats go for tens of millions of dollars apiece.

NASA has been paying billions of dollars to Boeing and SpaceX to develop capsules capable of transporting astronauts to and from the space station. Even before Boeing’s software issues, the commercial crew flights were years behind schedule. The space agency deliberately opted for two companies for redundancy, an advantage cited repeatedly Friday by NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.

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The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives suppor t from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

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