26 thoughts on “Better Late Than Never”

  1. From the CBS News website on the story an interesting piece of trivia:

    The long-awaited flight marked the first launch of an Atlas 5 with astronauts aboard and the first for the Atlas family of rockets since astronaut Gordon Cooper took off just a few miles away on the Mercury program’s final flight 61 years ago.

    Of course Atlas-V first stage has as much in common with Mercury-Atlas first stage as the name Atlas and LOX/RP-1 as a fuel.

    1. That’s what I was thinking. We are well beyond our Grandfather’s Axe territory here.

      1. The major change was strapping some SRBs to the side of the Atlas, using a second stage, and painting the whole thing. Sure, they’ve changed some of its internal and external parts over the years, but it’s still a big fuel cylinder with some engines on the bottom.

        1. George, I think either Atlas is/was just a wee bit more than a coke bottle shaken well. 😀

        2. From Wikipedia:

          The main differences between the Atlas V and earlier Atlas I and II family launch vehicles are:

          The first stage tanks no longer use stainless steel monocoque pressure stabilized “balloon” construction. The tanks are isogrid aluminum and are structurally stable when unpressurized.

          Accommodation points for parallel stages, both smaller solids and identical liquids, are built into first-stage structures.[14]
          The “1.5 staging” technique is no longer used, having been discontinued on the Atlas III with the introduction of the Russian RD-180 engine.

          The main-stage diameter increased from 3.0 to 3.7 m (9.8 to 12.1 ft).

          Other than that, they’re the spittin’ image of each other.

          1. It’s a little late for me but as I read it the Mercury Atlas used two XLR-89-5 as side boosters and an XLR-105-5 as the main engine. Not RD-180s. I won’t even get into the flight controls. More detail on Wikipedia under Atlas-LV3B…

  2. I think they are obliged to fly six times to ISS under the contract. Then there are all the folks lined up to do private flights –

    –Oh, wait, their price is 2 times spaceX.

    Never mind…

    1. Then there are all the folks lined up to do private flights
      Then there are all the museums lined up to grab a Starliner capsule.

  3. Assuming this test flight goes well, (never a safe thing to say about a Boeing product), Starliner will fly 6 operational missions to the ISS. There are 6 Atlas V N22s set aside for those flights. All other Atlas Vs are set to support other missions. So, unless someone is willing to pay for the certification costs to fly Starliner on another booster, those 6 flights will be it.

    There are several programs to build and fly commercial space stations. Those stations will be highly dependent on having a way to transport crews. No spacecraft, no Buck Rogers, no bucks. It’s possible one or more of those programs may be willing to pay some of the costs to certify and fly Starliner on a different booster. I don’t think there’s a high probability of this happening, but it is possible.

  4. Tangentially, I’ve been watching the oral histories of the astronauts on YouTube, which popped up in the suggestions…good thing, too, since I didn’t know they existed on line. This was a NASA/JSC funded project, the best money they have spent since Apollo.

    The first one I watched was Pete Conrad’s, which I really liked because he and I were business associates for a time. Wally Schirra’s was much more boisterous, and he went through the man-rating process for the Atlas. Buzz Aldrin’s was excellent, as was Alan Shepard’s. My favorite so far, though, was Walt Cunningham, who flew only once, on Apollo 7. He was my favorite for his summary of why Apollo was important, and of what our culture has lost since then. All of these were recorded circa 1999, but Cunningham’s is timeless.

    The only one I couldn’t even get through, because it was so boring, was Neil Armstrong’s. He was also the only one (so far) that didn’t appear on camera.

  5. It’s possible one or more of those programs may be willing to pay some of the costs to certify and fly Starliner on a different booster. I don’t think there’s a high probability of this happening, but it is possible.

    I suppose if something goes bollocks up with crewed Dream Chaser, ULA might be tempted to certify Starliner on the Vulcan in the VC2 configuration. If they can get NASA to pony up. Or perhaps the ESA for a crew-able version of the Ariane-6 (A64 config) again should there be a hiccup with Dream Chaser.

    My money is on the Smithsonian.

  6. Michael S. Kelly, back in 2011 Neil Armstrong visited Australia and did an interview with the guy who was, of all things, head of some accounting organisation. Neil gave a blow by blow of the descent of Eagle all the way to landing and other things. Excellent.
    Here you go: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KJzOIh2eHqQ

    1. Thanks in advance.

      I missed an opportunity to attend the last public appearance Neil made at a suborbital space conference. George Neild, my boss at the time, did make it. His main comment on the talk was that Armstrong wouldn’t take any questions on Apollo 11. He would only discuss his X-15 experience, which, apparently, was the pinnacle of his career as far as he was concerned (and that’s all that matters).

      1. Mega-thanks for that link. It was so worthwhile. Having Armstrong on camera in that setting made a world of difference, but I think what made this great was the interviewer. He was amazing, as one who was deeply prepared and as one who could bring out the full story from one not usually inclined to respond in that way. I deeply admire his skills. The interviewers JSC hired seemed to want to ward off interest in Armstrong, and were boring on their own part. NASA should buy a license to this for their oral history series. It’s better than most of theris.

        I was particularly jazzed by Armstrong confirming something I have only heard as a rumor: that they used part of a plastic pen to hold a circuit breaker in place, after the breaker was damaged by a brush with Aldrin’s PLSS. What I hadn’t realized was that it was the Ascent Engine circuit breaker…a rather important one!

        Apollo 11 has been on my mind a lot lately. I had the good fortune to take my first trip to Europe in August of 1969, when every news stand was full of magazines carrying the first photographs from Apollo 11 (NASA had to get them back from Photomat in those days). Wherever we went, when people found that we were Americans, they lit up with a genuine warmth that was both congratulations for our country’s accomplishment, and I am convinced a sense of thanks for showing what we human beings can do. On a world-wide scale, it was a brief moment of good will that had never happened before, and will never happen again, and I will always be grateful that I was alive to see it, and appreciate it.

  7. So, two year turn-around? The next flight scheduled for what, 2026 and actually flying in what, 2027? 2029?

  8. Late night update. Now NASA is working three helium leaks. They told the crew to just get some sleep.

  9. Watching IFT4 as I type this. Feel like I’m living in Space City with rockets coming and going all over like no big deal. Having Fireball-XL5 flashbacks today. Need SpaceX to build that rotating LCC at Starbase.

    1. Amazing job all the way. The booster looks like it is almost ready for full recovery. Only a few more flights away.
      It is simple incredible they kept communication with the Orbiter to splashdown. The data they got from this flight will go along way into improving space flight entry for all, but they got some significant redesign work to resolve the compression points near the control flaps such they can survive a bit more intact.
      Sure wish we could have tested a shuttle orbiter that way.

      1. The fastest way to deliver hot pizza known to mankind. Cooks it on the way down. Guaranteed delivery anywhere in 90 minutes or less. Prefer a clear driveway. 😉

  10. Anyone know why the ULA rocket is still called Atlas?
    As for Starliner, best comment I’ve seen is “if I were Musk I’d be telling my guys to prepare a Falcon and Dragon to bring them home from the ISS”.

    1. The launch vehicle is still the Atlas, using RP-1/LOX and the Russian RD-180’s. Their new one is the Vulcan, but as yet I haven’t heard of any plans to man rate it.

      1. I believe Tory has said they could certainly man-rate Vulcan… if a customer is willing to pay for it.
        It’s a good rocket, no doubt. But there’s increasing competition with reusability built-in that will likely make it short-lived.

        Rocketlab has teased that Neutron is crew-capsule capable (not being actively developed, or so they say).
        Blue Origin are likely well into development of crew-launch capability (but they won’t tell us anything for some time).

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