Last year was a busy one for suborbital flights as Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin and Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic conducted a combined four flights of their crewed suborbital vehicles. Despite hopes to the contrary, neither company flew paying tourists on their spaceships.
There were also 26 sounding rocket launches that carried scientific experiments and technology payloads above the atmosphere. The year saw:
Japanese startup Interstellar Technologies conduct a successful launch of its Momo commercial sounding rocket;
Texas-based Exos Aerospace continue to struggle with its reusable SARGE booster; and,
the first suborbital launch ever achieved by college students.
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. (Boeing PR) — On Wednesday, January 8, the Starliner that flew the uncrewed Orbital Flight Test returned safely to the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. After launching from Cape Canaveral on December 20, 2019, and landing at the White Sands Missile Range on December 22, the Starliner was recovered and prepared for shipment across the country, and then left the desert on January 3.
In general, the plan for post-flight processing of this spacecraft is as follows:
Video Caption: Take a look inside the Starliner on its Orbital Flight Test. Four interior cameras captured the mission, and this video covers nearly every dynamic event during the flight, including launch, separation events, on-orbit maneuvering, re-entry and landing.
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — In 2020, NASA will be taking long strides toward returning astronauts to the Moon, continuing the exploration of Mars and developing new technology to make supersonic aircraft fly more quietly.
WHITE SANDS, NM (Boeing PR) — Engineers and technicians are conducting closer studies of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft as they recover data from onboard systems and begin preparing the vehicle for its return to Florida, where it will be readied for a future crewed mission to the International Space Station.
WHITE SANDS, NM (NASA PR) — Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft completed the first land touchdown of a human-rated capsule in U.S. history Sunday at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico, wrapping up the company’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
The CST-100 Starliner is in a safe, stable orbit after an anomaly this morning following launch and spacecraft separation from the Atlas V.
The anomaly appears to have been the result of a mission elapsed timer (MET) using an unexpected timeline, which delayed orbital insertion thruster firings, putting Starliner in an unplanned orbit. Further root cause analysis is needed.
The Boeing flight control team quickly took action to place Starliner into an orbit that supports a safe landing at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
The combined Boeing and NASA team now plan to work together to define test flight objectives for the remainder of the mission, while preparing for the Starliner landing.
At this time, we do not expect the Starliner to dock at the International Space Station on this flight.
We are proud of the team for their professionalism and quick action to protect the vehicle and enable a safe return. We look forward to reviewing and learning from the data that has been generated from this mission so far.
Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, Fla., (Dec. 20, 2019)– A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying Boeing’s Starliner capsule on the Orbital Flight Test lifted off on Dec. 20 at 6:36:43 a.m. EST, from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. This marks the 81st launch of an Atlas V rocket and ULA’s 136th successful launch.
HOUSTON (NASA PR) — Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT) is the second uncrewed test flight of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, a partnership with the aerospace industry to launch astronauts on U.S. rockets and spacecraft from U.S. soil for the first time since 2011.
CAPE CANAVERAL AIR FORCE STATION, Fla. (ULA PR) — Everything is progressing toward the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V launch carrying the Orbital Flight Test (OFT), Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner capsule.
The mission is set to lift off on Friday, Dec. 20, from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The instantaneous launch is planned for 6:36 a.m. EST.
Live broadcast coverage of launch will begin at 5:30 a.m. EST on Dec. 20 and will broadcast live on NASA TV. Live launch updates and the webcast will be available at www.ulalaunch.com and www.boeing.com/starliner
Atlas V rocket will deliver the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to a 98 nautical mile suborbital trajectory to the International Space Station. After Starliner separation from Atlas V, Starliner engines will burn taking it the rest of the way to orbit and on to the International Space Station.
The Starliner OFT will be the 81st launch of the Atlas V and will mark ULA’s 136th mission.
Launch Forecast Summary
Today’s forecast shows a 70 percent chance of favorable weather conditions for launch.
Overall probability of violating weather constraints: 30% Primary concerns: Cumulus cloud rule, ground winds Overall probability of violating weather constraints for 24-hour delay: 40% Primary concern: Cumulus cloud rule, thick cloud layer rule
WASHINGTON (NASA PR) — The launch of Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test (OFT) to the International Space Station, as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, is targeted for 6:36 a.m. EST Friday, Dec. 20. The uncrewed flight test will be the Boeing CST-100 Starliner’s maiden mission to the space station.
Live coverage will begin on NASA Television and the agency’s website Tuesday, Dec. 17, with prelaunch events.
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (Aerojet Rocketdyne PR) — From start to finish, Aerojet Rocketdyne will play a major role in Boeing’s first demonstration mission of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft for NASA, ushering in a new era of human spaceflight. The Starliner Orbital Flight Test (OFT) demonstration is slated to launch Dec. 20, 2019 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.