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List of cursed [Spacecraft]. Boeing can help by expanding this list.

HevachHevach Registered User regular
edited June 27 in Debate and/or Discourse
Starliner is cursed. Cursed to failure. Cursed to expense. Cursed to dominate the first few dozen pages of this thread. But how cursed?
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The result of an $18 million award from NASA, the CST-100 was unveiled in 2010 as an Orion Light, primarily intended to serve as the assured crew return vehicle for the ISS. It could launch on the Atlas V, Falcon 9, or Delta IV Medium, none of which were then crew rated yet. It could dock autonomously at the ISS and allow shuttles to leave crew long term without Soyuz seats available to retrieve them. NASA awarded Boeing another $92 million for ongoing development.

In 2011 Boeing was given a shuttle processing building just for Starliner work. In 2012 NASA awarded Boeing $460 million more for development.

In 2014, despite claiming the vehicle already existed, Boeing was awarded $4.2 billion for development of Starliner and eight launches - one uncrewed, one partially crewed and six fully crewed. This was nearly twice the amount awarded to SpaceX for the Crew Dragon, because as a long time industry veteran Boeing could be trusted to deliver on their promises. The first launch was to occur in 2016 with crewed flight starting in early 2017. Additionally $6.7 million was allocated to ULA for human certification of the Atlas V's N22 and 522 configurations for Starliner and Dreamchaser, respectively.

Then 2015 happened. The first sign of problem was Boeing Starliner being dropped from the Commercial Resupply Service program, and the first launch slipped to 2017.

Then it slipped to late 2017... Then 2018. As problems stacked up Boeing was given an extra $287 million to fix their shit.

Throughout 2018 and 2019 Starliner was plagued by thruster problems caused by the hypergolic thruster system never being tested in a humid environment like coastal Florida, further delaying the debut.

In 2019 Starliner finally launched. It carried, among other things, Christmas presents from the families of astronauts and Cosmonauts who would be in space for the holidays. 31 minutes into flight a botched orbital insertion burn rendered the craft unable to reach the ISS. Christmas was ruined for the seven people aboard the station. But it gets worse! Later in the mission a critical software bug was detected that would have likely caused the capsule to collide with the service module during reentry, compromising the heat shield and possibly destroying the vehicle (with the presents still on board). This at least was fixed and Starliner Calypso landed on December 22, 2019, and the presents were recovered for the next Dragon flight.

Initially the failure was blamed on a communications lapse and it was noted a crew could have corrected the issue easily. NASA was considering moving ahead with a full crewed expedition for launch two... However things took a grim turn from there.

After the flight, it was determined that both issues would have been caught in testing of Boeing had done it right. They tested all phases of flight, but none of the transition points between them, where both errors occurred. Further 61 hardware and software faults were identified, including unsuitable insulation materials, faulty wiring, and exterior ablation on unshielded surfaces.

As problems continued Boeing had blown all its money and began taking out charges against future earnings from NASA. $410 million in 2020, $185 million in 2021, and $288 million in 2022.

The next flight would be scheduled for 2020 but would not fly until 2022 due to ongoing issues with the OMS thrusters, eventually requiring the entire rocket to be unstacked and the service module disconnected. This time the vehicle would not be graced with the dignity of a name, it was merely named Vehicle 2.

This time nothing of personal or mission import was along for the ride, just some perishable food, and the sort of PR things NASA is always sending to space - some flag pins from historically black colleges, and a plushie of Jedediah Kerman. The flight would not go smoothly. Multiple thrusters failed on route to the ISS, and docking was delayed by an hour due to issues with the retractable ring in its NDS docking port.

But, Vehicle 2 did complete its mission and deliver Jedediah safely to the ISS where he remains to this day, and Vehicle 2 returned to earth carrying empty air canisters.

The first crewed flight was scheduled for July 2023, but this time flammable tape and bad parachute harnesses would intervene. When it was finally ready, a valve issue with the Centaur upper stage caused a launch scrub. Had that not happened the errors that followed might have been missed. For weeks after the Centaur was fixed persistent helium leaks delayed launch attempts, until Starliner tied for the most scrubs on any single launch at 7.

Finally in May 2024 the flight finally launched, with Calypso from the first failed demo getting its shot at redemption. Sunita Williams and Barry Wilmore launched from Cape Canaveral (the first crewed flight since Apollo 7 to do so, as well as the first crewed Atlas rocket launch since Gordon Cooper's Mercury-Atlas 9).

And again thruster problems happened. Five of the twelve thrusters failed, though four were able to be restored. Multiple new helium leaks were detected after launch.

As of this writing Starliner is stuck in space on day twenty-one of its nine day mission, taking up a docking port and hanging around the ISS like in-laws as Christmas becomes New Year's and rapidly encroaches on Valentine's Day.

Starliner launched with the capacity to remain at the ISS for six months, but the leaks put a 45 day limit on its stay. As of right now there is no indication that there is any danger, but as the problems are all on the expendable service module and will never be looked at by human eyes the stay is being delayed to gather as much information as possible.

Contingencies include a two crew Dragon or solo crew Soyuz to retrieve the astronauts, with Starliner returning empty in disgrace. But Dragon collides with rules about assured return and sheltering during docking procedures, as the only open docking port for a crewed vehicle is an RSSV port on the Russian side.

The plan as of now is still to use Starliner to come home but the situation is still literally up in the air.

And all that money? The $5.95 billion that Starliner has cost NASA since 2010? (That's 1.5 Artemis 2s or 0.75 Artemis 3s for scale) Boeing is still billions in the hole and likely to sink much deeper by the time they deliver on their end of the contract.

Spacecraft More Cursed Than Starliner
placeholder text remove this when one exists

Hevach on
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    HevachHevach Registered User regular
    Further news from the Starliner curse: the traffic jam has delayed the Dreamchaser debut launch. ULA is required to make a number of certification launches before Vulcan can begin its main job carrying NRO and DOD payloads, so the launch will still go forward with an inert mass payload.

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    Commander ZoomCommander Zoom Registered User regular
    I would suggest Soyuz 1, and uh... we all know how that turned out.

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    HevachHevach Registered User regular
    edited June 27
    Yes but Soyuz has had 140 crewed and 178 uncrewed flights if you count in Progress. In that time there have been two loss of crew accidents (the 1st and 11th flights out of all that), one abort, and two hard landings, plus three Progress launches lost in some way. Somebody cooked up a proper remove curse potion at some point.

    Hevach on
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    AthenorAthenor Battle Hardened Optimist The Skies of HiigaraRegistered User regular
    ... Holy fuck, they did the rocket ship equivalent of passing all the unit tests but failing the obvious integration tests?

    He/Him | "A boat is always safest in the harbor, but that’s not why we build boats." | "If you run, you gain one. If you move forward, you gain two." - Suletta Mercury, G-Witch
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    ChallChall Registered User regular
    Don't worry everyone, I'm creating the Uber for Space, Spuber, and we're gonna send up one of our space Camrys to pickup the Starliner people. It will be surge pricing, but what are you gonna do, take the Starliner back to Earth? LOL

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    HevachHevach Registered User regular
    edited June 27
    Athenor wrote: »
    ... Holy fuck, they did the rocket ship equivalent of passing all the unit tests but failing the obvious integration tests?

    Basically, yes. They never did a full end to end mission simulation before the first demo flight.

    They simulated every stage of the mission but not an entire mission in one go. The first issue sprung up when the craft tried to go from orbital insertion to rendezvous mode, a clock error (which it wouldn't care about in either mode but was suddenly critical in the transition between modes) caused it to perform the next burn incorrectly.

    Same thing on reentry - they simulated all the steps, but not all back to back, so they never noticed that they would recontact the service module after separation.

    Hevach on
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    ronzoronzo Registered User regular
    Athenor wrote: »
    ... Holy fuck, they did the rocket ship equivalent of passing all the unit tests but failing the obvious integration tests?

    Management can’t stop tripping over piles of dollars to save pennies.

    Boeing management is terrible at the higher levels (like literally nearly all points above the 1st/2nd line ones). They’ve mismanaged both the time and cost aspects of this program, somehow spending way, way too much money while simultaneously not being able to devote enough personal/engineering to meet schedule.

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    HevachHevach Registered User regular
    edited June 27
    Which is the exact same thing that happened at McDonnell Douglas with the A-12 Avenger II that ultimately killed the company.

    Boeing caught what McDD had when they bought the scraps, and has been in a gradual spiral ever since. Shit like Starliner, 737 Max, and SLS (they don't make the whole thing but their core stage is literally the only thing that held up Artemis 1 and was by several years the last piece for Artemis 2 to be delivered) are the terminal stage, though Boeing is bigger than McDonnell Douglas was - it takes a lot to actually kill a company.

    Hevach on
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    daveNYCdaveNYC Why universe hate Waspinator? Registered User regular
    Really have to open up the competition to fictional spacecraft to beat out Starliner. Although in Event Horizon's case, I'd say that opening up a portal to Hell and coming back possessed by pure evil isn't a bad metaphor for the Boeing McDonnell Douglas merger.

    I'm not even sure how mismanaged the program has been, relatively speaking. It's just as likely that the C-level guys looked at the $500M (or whatever) contract spent $450M of it on buybacks, dividends, and scotch; and told the Starliner program guys to just figure something out with the remainder.

    Shut up, Mr. Burton! You were not brought upon this world to get it!
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    HevachHevach Registered User regular
    edited June 28
    daveNYC wrote: »
    $500M (or whatever) contract

    I was shocked when I went through the program history and started doing the math. Between the original payments, the commercial crew contract, the bail out, and the charges against future earnings (which have left Boeing on the hook to deliver not just six Starliner flights but most of two SLS cores for free) Boeing has received just short of $6 billion for Starliner, some of which is strictly speaking SLS/Artemis money on NASA's budget, but Boeing's reason for taking the charges were for Starliner, not SLS*. And they're still $1.5 billion in the hole.

    Artemis 2 is just over $4 billion. Artemis 3 is expected to come in under $10 billion. (Note these are mission specific costs, not including prior development spending). The ISS costs $3 billion per year. This is bonkers money.

    And the whole reason they got this while Dragon has not is because at the time Boeing was considered the safe bet.


    *-As much as SLS was delayed by Boeing related bullshit they don't make any moving parts and the future block upgrades are on Aerojet Rocketdyne and Northrop Grumman, neither of which has turned fuckwit yet. All Boeing has to do is keep producing a core tank every few years.

    Hevach on
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    Phoenix-DPhoenix-D Registered User regular
    Apparently Russia wanted on this list as one of their satellites exploded a few hours ago
    https://www.theguardian.com/science/article/2024/jun/27/russian-satellite-debris-international-space-station

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    HevachHevach Registered User regular
    edited June 28
    https://arstechnica.com/space/2024/06/nasa-orders-more-tests-on-starliner-but-says-crew-isnt-stranded-in-space/

    NASA gave one of the most substantiative updates on Starliner to date.

    The craft is certified for reentry and ACR use (Assured Crew Return - basically it can be used for shelter actions and to evacuate the station in an emergency), but not for nominal return use.


    What's going on right now: a Starliner thruster is being tested on the ground at a NASA facility in New Mexico along with the ones currently in space. This will take roughly two weeks, at the end of which they may certify Starliner to return to Earth, or make a decision on keeping it past the current 45 day time limit - the batteries are holding out and the helium system apparently doesn't leak when it's shut down at the manifold, so it could technically stay for six months.

    Hevach on
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    SealSeal Registered User regular
    China's Space Pioneer had a rather spectacular oopsie. Their first stage broke free during a static fire test and tried to fly to space. It looks like it landed not too far from the static fire test stand so hopefully there's no casualties. This probably delays their plans for a while.

    https://x.com/AJ_FI/status/1807339807640518690
    https://m.weibo.cn/detail/5050998629862652#&video

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    BremenBremen Registered User regular
    Hevach wrote: »
    daveNYC wrote: »
    $500M (or whatever) contract

    I was shocked when I went through the program history and started doing the math. Between the original payments, the commercial crew contract, the bail out, and the charges against future earnings (which have left Boeing on the hook to deliver not just six Starliner flights but most of two SLS cores for free) Boeing has received just short of $6 billion for Starliner, some of which is strictly speaking SLS/Artemis money on NASA's budget, but Boeing's reason for taking the charges were for Starliner, not SLS*. And they're still $1.5 billion in the hole.

    Artemis 2 is just over $4 billion. Artemis 3 is expected to come in under $10 billion. (Note these are mission specific costs, not including prior development spending). The ISS costs $3 billion per year. This is bonkers money.

    And the whole reason they got this while Dragon has not is because at the time Boeing was considered the safe bet.


    *-As much as SLS was delayed by Boeing related bullshit they don't make any moving parts and the future block upgrades are on Aerojet Rocketdyne and Northrop Grumman, neither of which has turned fuckwit yet. All Boeing has to do is keep producing a core tank every few years.

    If I ever sound like a SpaceX fanboy, it's not because I'm pro-Elon or pro-private enterprise taking over space, it's just that it's refreshing to have a space launch program that can seemingly find its rear with both hands.
    Seal wrote: »
    China's Space Pioneer had a rather spectacular oopsie. Their first stage broke free during a static fire test and tried to fly to space. It looks like it landed not too far from the static fire test stand so hopefully there's no casualties. This probably delays their plans for a while.

    https://x.com/AJ_FI/status/1807339807640518690
    https://m.weibo.cn/detail/5050998629862652#&video

    Technically does this count as a test succeeding beyond expectation?

    (I'm glad it sounds like no casualties, but this is why rockets should have flight termination systems).

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    SiliconStewSiliconStew Registered User regular
    Bremen wrote: »
    (I'm glad it sounds like no casualties, but this is why rockets should have flight termination systems).

    China's apparent general lack of FTS on their rockets aside, would an FTS normally be fitted for a static fire test even in the US since it's not supposed to go anywhere? I don't know if that's a normal thing they do for static tests or not.

    It seems like they were able to shut down the engine mid "flight". With the size of the explosion at the end, it doesn't appear that shutdown was due to expending all its fuel.

    Just remember that half the people you meet are below average intelligence.
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    HevachHevach Registered User regular
    Generally for a whole rocket yes. I can't find any incident like this ever happening but I know the Falcon 9 that exploded on pad during a static fire was a problem because the termination system never fired so the explosives needed to be accounted for before they could start investigating the wreckage.

    I don't think they shut the engine down. Right when it loses upward acceleration there's a burst of fire and smoke and the flamey end remains flamey until it crashes. I think the engine exploded.

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    Commander ZoomCommander Zoom Registered User regular
    Glorious People's Rocket terminates itself!

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    HevachHevach Registered User regular
    https://gizmodo.com/china-rocket-booster-crash-leaking-toxic-fuel-1851557049
    https://x.com/jenniferzeng97/status/1805001605110169692
    That was actually China's second recent rocket crash. Looks like the Long March 2 is doing inland launches again. This was a French payload, so much for international participation pressuring China to be better about this shit.

    Also, I learned a new rocket euphemism courtesy of Jonathan McDowell, astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center:
    “It’s known in the rocket industry as BFRC, a big fucking red cloud,” McDowell told Gizmodo. “And when you see a BFRC, you run for your life.”

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    DibbitDibbit Registered User regular
    A quickie from my phone:
    https://www.youtube.com/live/AfNPzSOalEU?si=SSRjWiDvuO97yqld

    Arianne 6 maiden flight and first liftoff official live stream on YouTube!

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    DibbitDibbit Registered User regular
    Hopefully, we’ll have a nice rocket in 15 minutes, that or the worlds second biggest fireworks

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    HevachHevach Registered User regular
    Small delay, currently 22 minutes on the timer.

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    DibbitDibbit Registered User regular
    Hevach wrote: »
    Small delay, currently 22 minutes on the timer.

    I feel this is on brand for the Ariane, She's just a bit performance shy.
    Also, she has expensive taste.

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    PhyphorPhyphor Building Planet Busters Tasting FruitRegistered User regular
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    DibbitDibbit Registered User regular
    Phyphor wrote: »

    I'm sorry, Yeah, That's much better.
    Also, it has Chat! Something the French stream doesn't have. I haven't decided if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

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    DibbitDibbit Registered User regular
    The pointy end is pointing upwards! Woot! We have a rocket!

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    DibbitDibbit Registered User regular
    edited July 9
    Everything is looking good, seperation looked good, There's a guy saying "Systeme Nominale" every 20 seconds, so that's good news.
    The external camera feed seems to have cut out, but think that was just a streaming thing.

    edit:
    Seems we're going to space today!

    Dibbit on
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    PhyphorPhyphor Building Planet Busters Tasting FruitRegistered User regular
    You know, I never really thought about it before, but the French holding on to and integrating their colonies provides a huge benefit for launches since they're very nearly on the equator and has open ocean to the east

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    DibbitDibbit Registered User regular
    edited July 9
    Phyphor wrote: »
    You know, I never really thought about it before, but the French holding on to and integrating their colonies provides a huge benefit for launches since they're very nearly on the equator and has open ocean to the east

    The Netherlands has a Province in the Caribean as backup. :p

    But overall, while it is working out great, The EU also has no problems with building huge telescopes in Chile. I'm sure coorperation would've been possible too if a launch place was needed.

    Dibbit on
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    HevachHevach Registered User regular
    edited July 9
    Dibbit wrote: »
    Everything is looking good, seperation looked good, There's a guy saying "Systeme Nominale" every 20 seconds, so that's good news.
    The external camera feed seems to have cut out, but think that was just a streaming thing.

    edit:
    Seems we're going to space today!

    SpaceX has spoiled us but live video feeds from rockets in flight isn't usually a thing. Probably went too far for the signal and/or too fast for the directional antenna. As long as the telemetry keeps coming all's good. Video's useful but it's more interesting to the nerds at home than the nerds in the control room.

    Hevach on
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    AthenorAthenor Battle Hardened Optimist The Skies of HiigaraRegistered User regular
    Everyday Astronaut said there'd be quite a few seconds of delay in the feed.

    He/Him | "A boat is always safest in the harbor, but that’s not why we build boats." | "If you run, you gain one. If you move forward, you gain two." - Suletta Mercury, G-Witch
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    DibbitDibbit Registered User regular
    edited July 9
    Hevach wrote: »
    Dibbit wrote: »
    Everything is looking good, seperation looked good, There's a guy saying "Systeme Nominale" every 20 seconds, so that's good news.
    The external camera feed seems to have cut out, but think that was just a streaming thing.

    edit:
    Seems we're going to space today!

    SpaceX has spoiled us but live video feeds from rockets in flight isn't usually a thing. Probably went too far for the signal and/or too fast for the directional antenna. As long as the telemetry keeps coming all's good. Video's useful but it's more interesting to the nerds at home than the nerds in the control room.

    The feed came back later, it just seemed to have a short hiccup during the actual seperation.
    It does give us the mandatory "Look at that blue marble" shot:
    2jidavu09imj.png

    edit: Also, if you look at 1:06:00 after lift-off, you see it actually eject the payload. (Cube-sats)

    Dibbit on
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    DibbitDibbit Registered User regular
    BTW, does anyone have the liftoff telemetry?
    Looking back at the launch, Ariane seems..speedy.
    Might be the camera angle, or the size of the rocket playing an illusion, but it looked like it was booking it out of there.

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    HevachHevach Registered User regular
    edited July 10
    Ariannes are already speedy off the pad because of those boosters (the first Arianne V literally tried to turn around and come back because it's guidance software couldn't keep up). And this one had a tiny payload, only 15% of capacity in the A32 configuration.

    Hevach on
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    daveNYCdaveNYC Why universe hate Waspinator? Registered User regular
    Glad to see it succeed, but ESA really messed up when they decided against reuse.

    Shut up, Mr. Burton! You were not brought upon this world to get it!
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    HevachHevach Registered User regular
    Particularly since they backed off of Arianne 5's payload capacity (the four booster heavy configuration can match it but the two booster version they launched today is quite a bit lower). It's competing much more directly with Falcon 9 than Falcon Heavy. Falcon Heavy has shortcomings in fairing size and horizontal integration that let Arianne V maintain a solid niche that it didn't really threaten, but Falcon 9 is a very hard rocket to compete with.

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    daveNYCdaveNYC Why universe hate Waspinator? Registered User regular
    Whelp. First stage good, second stage not so good. The auxiliary propulsion unit conked out so the second stage Vinci engine couldn't restart so they couldn't deorbit like planned and the whole restartable second stage, which is a thing for putting things where you want them orbitwise.

    I think Ars had a blast from the past example of some ESA upper big wig pulling a 'Silly SpaceX and your silly rocket attempts.' back when Falcon was kabooming on a regular basis. Which isn't great, but understandable somewhat back in the 'teens. A decade later and you haven't adjusted though...

    Shut up, Mr. Burton! You were not brought upon this world to get it!
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    SiliconStewSiliconStew Registered User regular
    A Starlink launch had a second stage failure today. The booster landed normally, but the second stage developed a fuel leak with major ice build up and shedding occurring during the initial burn. SpaceX said it suffered an RUD during the later circularization burn relight. However, they also said they deployed the satellites in this non-circular orbit, so I'm assuming they're just using RUD for "failed to start" instead of "exploded". They are trying to use the satellite's ion thrusters to raise their orbit before they burn up, but that's extremely unlikely to succeed given the low thrust and how far off the orbit is. The last time a Falcon 9 had an in-flight failure was 2015.

    https://youtu.be/SLf_OAyZbWU?si=lr4NQrpV_yZNeQx-

    Just remember that half the people you meet are below average intelligence.
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    SealSeal Registered User regular
    https://www.spacex.com/launches/mission/?missionId=sl-9-3

    Official statement confirms the obvious and it's some kind of lox leak, satellites are doomed. It's worded in a way that suggests the engine did suffer some kind of destructive failure, maybe the lox ran dry and the turbopump spun up and flew apart?

    The FAA has opened an investigation and F9 has been grounded.

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    AthenorAthenor Battle Hardened Optimist The Skies of HiigaraRegistered User regular
    I think he recorded this before that statement was released, but as usual Manley has a good breakdown of explaining what's on the screen.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=St-yEc6fyLg

    He/Him | "A boat is always safest in the harbor, but that’s not why we build boats." | "If you run, you gain one. If you move forward, you gain two." - Suletta Mercury, G-Witch
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    HevachHevach Registered User regular
    https://salinapost.com/posts/7db1306d-94aa-4785-80ee-649fc1bbd8db

    Joe Engle, the last surviving X15 pilot and two time shuttle commander (three if you count the approach and landing tests) has passed away.

    Engle was also the original Lunar Module Pilot for Apollo 17, however the cancellation of the Apollo program prompted NASA to fly the first scientist-astronaut on the last flight instead.

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