back to article Oh chute. Two out of three ain't bad, right? asks Boeing after soft-ish crew module landing

This week Boeing unveiled its lunar lander ambitions after a sort-of successful commercial crew test, Virgin Orbit revealed plans to shoot smallsats as far as Mars, and SpaceX dried off fairing recovered from the ocean for use in a static fire test. Boeing parachute 'anomaly' While rival SpaceX was bragging about its run of 13 …

  1. macjules

    “We don’t ‘sell’ safety, that’s not our business model”

    As Dennis Muilenberg said to Congress recently.

    1. nematoad

      Re: “We don’t ‘sell’ safety, that’s not our business model”

      "Musk's rocket firm will also demonstrate its abort systems in-flight, something Boeing plans to skip."

      Yes, I agree. There seems to be theme developing with stuff from Boeing. It's as getting the thing out the door is far more important that getting the said thing to actually work properly. It might be different if one of the top brass from Boeing was ever likely to take a trip in one of these spacecraft.

    2. Agent Tick

      Re: “We don’t ‘sell’ safety, that’s not our business model”

      This statement alone should get him fired immediately!

      1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

        Re: “We don’t ‘sell’ safety, that’s not our business model”

        Without looking at the transcript for context, I suspect what was trying to say was that they don't sell optional extras intended as safety features because the safety features are part of the basic package.

        Whether we believe him or not is another matter. Especially when a safety feature relies on a single sensor.

  2. BristolBachelor Gold badge


    A redundancy of 2 working out of 3 sub-sytems is very common in space flight. It's good that everything was ok with only 2 parachutes, to cover the possible FAILURE of one. However If they are doing that this WASN'T a failure, does that mean that the system has to cope with one less in a real failure case?

    Now the boffin icon, or the troll one?

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Redundancy

      No. It was a failure. But not of the parachute (presumable), but the detachment/deployment/etc system.

      A bit like changing your tires when you run out of fuel, kinda not the actual problem, though "failure" is.

    2. jelabarre59

      Re: Redundancy

      I had wondered about that myself. Are two parachutes actually adequate to land the capsule, and the third is there as a safety cushion?

      1. Bite my finger

        Re: Redundancy

        The Boeing managers say yes. The people in the capsule say "WTF?!!"

        1. Swiss Anton

          Re: Redundancy

          If the occupants in the capsule can still say WTF after a landing with 2, rather than 3, parachutes, then I would call that a successful landing. If they can also walk away, then that would be a good landing.

        2. Wzrd1 Silver badge

          Re: Redundancy

          "The Boeing managers say yes. The people in the capsule say "WTF?!!""

          Not really, were I inside the capsule, I'd simply deadpan, "made by the lowest bidder".

          "Which is why we have three!"

          Nowhere near a "Houston, we have a problem". More like one engine cut out on a Saturn 5 booster, so they "burn it a little longer".

          Laughably, both happened on one specific mission.

    3. Nolveys

      Re: Redundancy

      All three chutes actually worked fine, one just happened to be destroyed when clipped by the wing of an unrelated 737 max as it flew past, upside-down and backwards.

      1. Baldrickk

        Re: Redundancy

        Comment of the week here!

    4. Anonymous Coward Silver badge

      Re: Redundancy

      "two is one and one is none"

      They need two, so install three.

  3. Blockchain commentard

    Considering the news on the Beeb about a whistle-blower claiming Boeing installs dodgy oxygen cylinders, who wants to risk going up in one of their rockets?

    1. Alister

      Just to correct you, it's not the cylinders which are dodgy, it's the release valves, which are a one-time pyrotechnic device which cannot therefore be tested after installation.

      1. Baldrickk

        Which is where SpaceX have been smart, if not cheap - they developed special high pressure valves that they could test before and after installation - in fact, it's been a common theme in their development, that they didn't want to rely on items that can't be tested.

        This applies to everything from the engines, to the mechanisms to separate the boosters on the Falcon Heavy (typically explosive bolts on most / all other spacecraft)

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Thats what recently failed.

          IIRC one of the recent engine/tank failures was in the one time use valve... thus the boom.

  4. Sureo

    Boeing lunar lander

    Someone ought to advise Boeing that parachutes won't work on the moon.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Boeing lunar lander

      I think you will find that parachutes would have worked quite happily on Metro-Universal-Paramount's sound stage.

      1. Bite my finger

        Re: Boeing lunar lander

        No sound stage is that large.

  5. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Didn't the SpaceX abort system blow up the capsule the last time they tried it?

    1. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      I seem to remember reading something about it. A failure Review Board notice or something. Made for interesting reading.

      I don't remember the word "success" ever being used to describe the event though.

      1. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

        The test was fine. The thing operated as expected. Then they fished it out, put it on the test stand and played with it, and the thing went Kaboom! As I recall some fuel went the wrong way, got into the helium system, and ate through the check valves - then exploded.

        1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

          SpaceX points to leaky valve as culprit in Crew Dragon test accident

          They believe that oxidiser leaked past a check valve into the helium side of the pressurisation system. When the helium bottle was opened to pressurise the system (at ~2,400 psi) this drove the "slug" of NTO into the valve at high velocity, which ignited it (and would have destroyed it otherwise).

  6. DCFusor

    That lag between "zero" and engine fire, then a little more to actually move, is plenty long enough to render the entire thing utterly useless. I suppose that high G landing would be better than being in a fireball, if those N2O2 fumes didn't kill you..

    I'm not impressed. Declaring a failure a success and going for more bucks IS the MIC way - overruns benefit those with cost plus fixed fee contracts, but...If we have to pay all the parties in a competition, it's some form of competition I'm not understanding - we lose no matter what.

  7. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Now that they know that two will do it fine, what's to say they start selling the third as an optional upgrade?

    "We're sorry, you didn't purchase the 3rd chute. If you would like to purchase, please insert payment card in the slot below..."

    1. Bite my finger

      I'll take eight.

  8. MJB7

    "the routine ... landing"

    Well El Reg may regard another rocket landing back on Earth as yawn-worthy, but I'm old enough to be going "Sqeee!"

  9. Ugotta B. Kiddingme


    "Virgin Orbit, the tentacle of Richard Branson's brand with designs on the smallsat market, has announced plans to fit a third stage to its air-launched LauncherOne rocket in order to send smallsat payloads to the Moon, asteroids or as far as Mars."

    one presumes they mean those asteroids between Mars orbit and Sol, given that "the vast majority of asteroids catalogued" are BEYOND Mars orbit.

    1. Anonymous Coward

      Re: asteroids?

      Or just smaller payloads? If you can reach escape velocity (of the solar system ;) )... it's just payload size for where you can get with it. :P

  10. I ain't Spartacus Gold badge

    What fun!

    0 - 650mph in under 5 seconds!

    Scream if you want to go faster!

    I'm sure I used to be taller...

    1. Pen-y-gors

      Re: What fun!

      Yeah. How many Gs is that? (But better than the alternative)

      1. Fonant

        Re: What fun!

        58G approximately, assuming constant acceleration.

        Ouch. That's on the limit of being survivable.

        1. the spectacularly refined chap

          Re: What fun!

          The human body can survive far higher Gs than commonly assumed. It's probably around 20 years since G meters began to be installed in Formula 1 and IndyCar. At the time it was assumed the maximum remotely survivable G loading was around 50. The very first crash they got the data from had a peak of (from memory) 148 Gs. The driver jumped up and out of the car completely unhurt.

          1. Baldrickk

            Re: What fun!

            Momentary G's are pretty survivable unless they go very high. Sustained G's can kill even when (relatively) low.

        2. Ugotta B. Kiddingme

          Re: What fun!

          did you perhaps miss a decimal? I'm thinking closer to 6g* but then, I suck at maths.

          This handy online calculator comes up with 5.93g to reach 650 MPH in 5s.

          *6g for 5s is definitely stressful but hardly life threatening for highly trained astronauts.

      2. Swiss Anton

        Re: What fun!

        My school physics says

        v=u+(at^2)/2. Given u=0, v=650mph=~290m/s,t=5. a is 23.2 m/s/s (or ~2.36g) ,


        v^2 = u^2 * 2aS. Given u=0,S=4500ft =~1371 m,v=650mph=~290m/s. a is 30.6 m/s/s (or ~3.12g)

        Both of these answers are a load of rubbish though as the acceleration isn't going to be constant. The vehicle's mass will reduce as fuel is burnt, and the air will thin as it ascends, but I think it gives a ball park figure for the acceleration. Which doesn't seem to be so excessive.

        1. cracked and broken

          Re: What fun!

          g=9.8 m/s/s

          v=290m/s (650mph)


          (acceleration in units of g) = v/tg

          In this case the acceleration was 290/(5*9.8) = 5.9g


  11. Pen-y-gors

    Martian satellite?

    the first dedicated commercial satellite mission to Mars.

    Which raises the interesting question of who the customers might be? And whether they're green.

    1. Korev Silver badge

      Re: Martian satellite?

      In my local shop, mostly PFYs...

    2. BristolBachelor Gold badge

      Re: Martian satellite?

      NASA has asked for an orbiting telecom relay sat to relay to/from rovers/stations on the Martian surface. If you had one there, there wouldn't be much competition.

    3. Mike_G

      Re: Martian satellite?

      Nah, Marvin was black wasnt he?

  12. tempemeaty

    Just wondering....

    Has the frame been inspected for stress cracks?

    Who is writing it's software?

    Has any part of it been worked on and shipped back from China?


    ref First Video - Last 10 seconds/so of shot:

    I'm not the cleverest of lads,



    (which in this case are also at the mercy of any freak gust of wind)



  14. Delbert


    I'm afraid the credibility of 'Boing' was pretty low before this demonstration, denying there is a problem when it is blatently obvious is hardly going to convince anybody that they have accepted their responsibilities. A policy of corporate denial should be ringing alarm bells at NASA and among airlines.

    1. Chairman of the Bored

      Re: Unconvincing

      Aye. Heard an aero engineer say once the reason the Federal Trade Commission permitted the Boeing / McDonnell Douglas merger was to combine the engineering and manufacturing prowess of Boeing with the strong marketing and business capabilites of McD and create a defense and civil aviation superpower.

      What we got instead was McD's engineering and Boeing's business capabilites.

  15. HamsterNet

    So complex so many points of failure

    Really starts to point out why Starship is going to be a stainless steel tank with some thrusters and engins.

    All this compelx abort, complex staging, complex landing kit. complex recovery, complex hypergolic fuel handling, complex parachutes. its all just so many points of failure.

    Cant wait or the next 5 to 10 years, Startship will be pottering about the solar system, landing on the moon, mars and building bigalo stations.

    NASA will be still waiting for the SLS and planning a few dozen stages, super complex crafts, using 1960s technology to get to the moon but be nowhere near it.

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