Boeing’s Starliner gears up for a third launch attempt after weekend scrub

A leading shark researcher said on Monday that experts are currently investigating a shark bite incident involving a swimmer near San Diego. The main objective is to determine the species of shark involved and gather any clues that may shed light on this rare event. According to a spokesperson from the Del Mar lifeguard, a 46-year-old man swimming with a group of approximately twelve people in Del Mar was bitten on the torso, left arm, and hand. The incident occurred about 100 yards from the shore on Sunday. As a result, the beach has been closed with a notice indicating a “shark incident.” While sharks, including great whites, are known to come close to swimmers, surfers, and paddlers in the waters off Del Mar and Torrey Pines beach in San Diego on a regular basis, the International Shark Attack File database has recorded only 20 unprovoked bites in San Diego County over the past 98 years. In a separate incident in May, a surfer was knocked off their board by a shark approximately 40 miles up the coast in San Clemente.
Chris Lowe, a marine biology professor and director of the Shark Lab at California State University, Long Beach, led a team to Del Mar on Sunday to collect water samples. The team’s goal is to recover cells shed by the shark and test them for DNA in order to determine the species.

In addition to the water samples, the Shark Lab team also hopes to examine medical records and the swimmer’s wetsuit. This will allow them to measure the bite marks, which could provide insights into the size and approximate age of the shark.

Lowe explained that there are many sharks in the area and a high concentration of people. Therefore, it is unclear why this specific incident occurred. Lowe’s team has been studying 225 juvenile white sharks, tagging them and tracking their movements.

The waters in San Diego present a similar environment for the sharks.
Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft is scheduled for its inaugural crewed launch on Wednesday after a computer issue caused a delay just before liftoff on Saturday. The mission, known as the Crew Flight Test, will take place at 10:52 a.m. ET from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. NASA will provide live streaming coverage of the event on their website, starting at 6:45 a.m. ET. The crew for this historic mission includes experienced NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, who will ride aboard the Starliner spacecraft propelled by an Atlas V rocket, a collaboration between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
The highly anticipated flight experienced a delay of 3 minutes and 50 seconds after liftoff on Saturday afternoon. This delay was triggered by an automatic hold initiated by the ground launch sequencer, which is responsible for launching the rocket. The astronauts were safely extracted from the capsule while the rocket’s fuel was being drained. Following this, Williams and Wilmore returned to crew quarters.

During a news conference on Saturday, Tory Bruno, the president and CEO of United Launch Alliance, explained the functioning of the ground launch sequencer. He described it as a large computer rack where the various functions of the computer are divided into separate cards or printed wire circuit boards. Each card operates independently, but together they form an integrated controller.

The cards within the computer system are responsible for carrying out different essential tasks before a launch, such as releasing bolts at the rocket’s base to enable liftoff after ignition.
According to Bruno, during the final four minutes before launch, it is crucial for all three computers to communicate and agree with each other. However, during Saturday’s countdown, one of the computers had a delay of six seconds in responding compared to the other two computers. This delay indicated that something was not right and triggered an automatic hold.

Over the weekend, engineers conducted an evaluation of the computers, their power supply, and the network communications between them. The team identified the issue as a single ground power supply within one of the computers. This power supply is responsible for providing power to the computer cards that control important countdown events, such as the replenishment valves for the rocket’s upper stage. This information was shared in an update from NASA.

The Starliner teams did not observe any physical damage to the computer. They removed the faulty computer and replaced it with a spare. Meanwhile, mission specialists are still analyzing the problematic power unit to gain a better understanding of what caused the issue.
The ULA team assessed the other computers and their cards, and confirmed that they are all functioning normally as expected.

According to NASA, the Starliner mission management team has reviewed the troubleshooting steps taken for computer replacement and has given the green light for the launch on Wednesday.

Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, expressed his appreciation for the hard work done by NASA, Boeing, and ULA teams in the past week. He particularly highlighted the efforts of the ULA team in quickly understanding the issues, keeping the NASA and Boeing teams informed, and preparing for the next launch attempt. Stich emphasized the importance of taking it one step at a time.

The next launch attempt is scheduled to take place on Wednesday.
Prior to Saturday’s launch attempt, mission teams successfully resolved several issues that arose during the countdown. One of the problems involved a loss of data from ground valves responsible for refilling the liquid oxygen and hydrogen in the upper stage of the Atlas V rocket before liftoff.

Both the liquid oxygen and hydrogen fuel evaporate while the rocket is on the launch pad, so continuous replenishment is necessary until liftoff. After evaluating the problem, the mission teams switched to a backup system for the valve data and were able to resume the refilling process.

According to the US Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron, weather conditions for Wednesday morning’s launch are highly favorable, with a 90% chance of success. The only concern is the presence of cumulus clouds. If the launch cannot take place on Wednesday, there is another opportunity scheduled for 10:29 a.m. ET on Thursday, as per NASA.
If the Starliner successfully launches, the astronauts will spend slightly more than 24 hours traveling to the International Space Station.

Meanwhile, the two astronauts are currently in quarantine to ensure their health before the launch. They are also practicing procedures and simulations in preparation for this significant flight, as stated by NASA.

In the Santa Cruz-Monterey area, which are known as aggregation sites for sharks, shark bites are even less likely. This is possibly due to the sharks being accustomed to humans and less likely to mistake them for their typical prey, such as sea lions.

Lowe suggested that the incident may have involved a new shark in the area that was unfamiliar with humans and made a mistake.