SpaceX has acquired two new ships to work on fairing recovery, Starliner will be destacked from Atlas, and a Cygnus spacecraft launched to the ISS.
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SpaceX’s new multi-purpose ships
Photos shared on Marine Traffic gave us the first look at two new ships acquired by SpaceX. The ships, named “Bob” and “Doug” (a reference to the Demo-2 astronauts) are owned by SpaceX, rather than simply contracted like previous vessels. The two ships feature a sleek paint scheme and a large crane to lift fairings out of the water. It is likely that these much larger vessels could serve as multi-purpose ships. In addition to fairing recovery will serve as droneship support and possibly towing.
NG-16 launch of Cygnus spacecraft to the ISS
On Tuesday, Northrup Grumman launched their NG-16 mission to the International Space Station on the Antares 230+ rocket. The Cygnus spacecraft is named the S.S. Ellison Onizuka in honor of the NASA astronaut. He was the first Asian-American to go to space. He first launched on Space Shuttle Discovery. During STS-51-L Challenger disaster, he and the six other crew members all lost their lives.
Following the conclusion of our Live Blog of the launch, the spacecraft was captured by and berthed with the ISS for the cargo to be offloaded.
Starliner faces further delays and destacking
Starliner’s rollout to the pad for OFT-2 was an exciting moment. Following the disappointment and delays from the original orbital flight test of Starliner, it was a highly anticipated moment. Unfortunately, the events with Nauka at the ISS prevented launch on the first attempt. After that delay, issues with 13 valves on Starliner were found following a lightning storm. Boeing’s teams were able to resolve issues with seven of the valves and were continuing progress. After opening one more valve, with four more still stuck, it became clear that a deeper level of troubleshooting was necessary.
Boeing announced that the spacecraft would need to be destacked from the rocket and returned to the Commercial Crew and Cargo processing facility. The Atlas V booster will now be used for another mission, but the dual-centaur upper stage is reserved for Starliner.
While the delay is far from ideal, at least the problem occurred prior to launch and can be troubleshot on the ground to resolve all issues in preparation for future launch opportunities.
Next month, the crew of Inspiration4 will be launching into orbit. This private crew has been undergoing a great deal of training in preparation for the launch, which has been covered in a multi-part TIME feature.
While the training continues, there is a new way to show your support for the mission while supporting a great cause: the ‘Inspiration4 Miler’. The virtual run costs $40 and supports St. Jude while participants get an Inspiraiton4 medal, shirt, and hat.
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