Boeing Starliner capsule nears completion of pivotal test flight to orbit -Breaking
By Steve Gorman
(Reuters] – On Wednesday, the new Boeing (NYSE:] Starliner capsule would descend to Earth from its initial uncrewed voyage to the International Space Station. This was followed by a rigorous test flight that NASA will use to evaluate whether it is capable of carrying people to orbit.
A little over a week following its launch from Cape Canaveral U.S. Space Force Base, Florida, the CST-100 Starliner was due to auto-unlock from the space station at 2.36 pm EDT (1836 GMT). It would then embark on a return flight of five hours and more.
The mission will end with the craft, which is shaped like a gumdrop, making an atmospheric, fiery reentry. This will be followed by an Airbag-cushioned parachut landing on the desert floor at White Sands (New Mexico) at 6:49 pm PDT (224 GMT).
Starliner was launched to orbit by an Atlas (NYSE;) V rocket provided by United Launch Alliance. It reached its primary goal, a rendezvous of the ISS with its four onboard thrusters, despite being unable to lift it up.
Boeing engineers had to devise a solution to an issue with thermal control during final approach to space station. The capsule was orbiting around 270 miles (335 km) above Earth.
Officials from Boeing and NASA said that Starliner’s safety return is possible despite the difficulties encountered thus far. They also noted that such missteps can be used to aid in the development of a new spacecraft.
If the Starliner is successful, it would make NASA a step closer in providing a reliable means of ferrying astronauts from Earth to space. This mission has been plagued with delays and costly engineering failures.
The U.S. Space Agency has been resuming crewed orbital flights from American soil since 2020. This is nine years after the end of the shuttle program.
Previously, you could only reach the orbiting laboratory by hopping aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. However, this option has become less attractive due to the increased U.S.-Russia tensions regarding the war in Ukraine.
Boeing faces many difficulties as it attempts to recover from successive crises within its space-defense business and in the jetliner business. In the two-and-a half years since Starliner was launched, Boeing has spent nearly $600 million.
A software bug that prevented Starliner’s first orbital flight to the station in 2019 almost caused the vessel’s failure.
Aerojet Rocketdyne supplied Starliner with the propulsion system. Boeing had to abandon a second attempt at launching the capsule.
Starliner was grounded nine months more, while Starliner was still inoperable. The two companies argued over the fuel valve sticking shuts and who should be responsible.
NASA stated that Starliner could fly its first astronaut crew into space by Wednesday’s do-over mission.
The crew currently resides at the orbiting station with three U.S. astronauts and an Italian astronaut, both from NASA. Three Russian cosmonauts are also present.