Boeing has another difficult task after returning to orbit: returning to Earth

The Interplanetary Spaceship (Starliner) manufactured by Boeing launched on Friday, local time, but subsequently abandoned the test of docking with the International Space Station because it failed to enter the correct orbit. task. The spacecraft now faces another difficult task: to return to Earth smoothly. It is reported that the interstellar spacecraft is scheduled to land in the New Mexico Desert at 7:57 am Eastern Time on Sunday, a full week earlier than originally planned.

During a media conference call on Saturday afternoon local time, Boeing and NASA officials expressed confidence in the interstellar spacecraft and their ability to return to Earth safely.

Jim Chilton, Boeing’s senior vice president for space operations and spacecraft launches, said, “Our spacecraft is in good shape. NASA and the Boeing team have been working closely together to do as much as we can. Test target. “Chelton pointed out that the interstellar spacecraft’s condition is” very good, it has been proven to be a spacecraft capable of coping with the space environment. “

However, they also acknowledged that the return of the spacecraft to the atmosphere and landing was a huge challenge and required a series of complex operations. The interstellar spacecraft encountered problems after separation from the Atlas V rocket. Previously, Boeing had headaches due to problems with the interstellar spacecraft’s parachute system. At that time, one of the three main parachutes of the spacecraft in the test failed to open.

“There is no doubt that we still have something to prove tomorrow,” Chelton said.

When the spacecraft traverses the atmosphere vertically, the speed will reach 25 times the speed of sound, and the spacecraft’s insulation board must withstand a high temperature of 3000 degrees. The interstellar spacecraft will then open a series of parachutes and airbags to land at the White Sands Missile Range in southern New Mexico

In a previous suspension of the engine test, the main parachute of the spacecraft failed to open because a cone tip was not properly fixed, and this cone tip was originally intended to connect a larger main umbrella to a smaller one. Drag on the umbrella. This cone-shaped tip is under a protective sleeve, and people can’t see it at all. So Boeing did not find this problem when inspecting the parachute before the test.

Local time on Saturday, Chelton said he was confident of launching the parachute system on the interstellar spacecraft on Friday. Steve Stitch, deputy director of NASA’s commercial astronaut program, said NASA inspectors independently verified the system. They “can clearly see that the parachute is set up correctly, and we have no concerns about it.”

Chelton said Boeing is still investigating what went wrong after the launch of the spacecraft. Everything was perfect after the Atlas 5 rocket was lifted off Cape Canaveral, Florida on Friday, but the Interstellar spacecraft engine did not ignite as planned.

Officials blamed the failure of the engine’s ignition on the improper calibration of the time system, making the ship think it was in a different position from the actual mission. Due to communication problems, the ground controllers could not send instructions to the spacecraft to correct the errors in time. Eventually, NASA and Boeing decided not to test the spacecraft to dock with the space station as planned.

When the spacecraft was on the wrong orbit, a series of thrusters started to try to correct the flight path. But the fuel’s fuel interfered with the whole system, causing the sensors monitoring the condition of the propeller to send some wrong information. Since then, the groundwork team has been examining the propulsion system, “so far they have been operating,” Chelton said. “We believe that afterburning has caused some sensors to overheat.”

Chelton said the spacecraft software system has been extensively tested before. “We were surprised that a number of comprehensive tests approved by NASA have found no problems,” he said.

Chelton said the timing system has been reset and it appears to be functioning properly. He said the other systems on the spacecraft are not expected to be affected, “so far, it doesn’t look like a serious systemic problem.”

Chelton said that Boeing and NASA have sent independent teams to observe if similar problems occur when the spacecraft prepares to land. “Our team has been working hard for the past 24 hours, and now we think we are ready,” he said.

Chelton pointed out that the spacecraft’s life support, navigation and control systems worked well, and the spacecraft’s solar cell array also performed better than expected.

Former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson works at Boeing and plans to participate in the first manned flight of the interstellar spacecraft. He wrote in a letter to employees that the company “is cautiously optimistic about the successful return of the spacecraft in the next few days.”

He added: “For example, anyone can swing a few shots on the golf course … Only a real champion can win the game without interference. In other words, it is not a mistake that makes us judge, It’s the calm we show under pressure when we recover from our mistakes. We can do it.

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