Boeing’s new Starliner crew capsule docked for the first time on board International Space Stationcompleting a major objective of a crucial test flight into orbit without astronauts on board.
The CST-100 Starliner’s gumdrop-shaped rendezvous with the orbital search site, which currently has a crew of seven, occurred Friday about 26 hours after the capsule was launched from Cape Canaveral US Void The power base is in Florida.
Starliner blasted off Thursday on an Atlas V rocket supplied by Boeing-Lockheed Martin’s United Launch Alliance (ULA) and reached its intended initial orbit 31 minutes later despite two thrusters failing on board.
Boeing said the two defective thrusters pose no risk to the rest of the space flight, which comes after more than two years of delays and costly engineering setbacks in a program designed to bid. NASA Another vehicle to send astronauts to and from orbit.
They docked with the International Space Station at 8.28 p.m. EDT (00.28 GMT on Saturday) as the two vehicles flew 271 miles (436 kilometers) over the southern Indian Ocean off the coast of Australia, according to commentators in a NASA live webcast for the link.
This was the first time a spacecraft from each of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program partners had been physically connected to the space station at the same time. The SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule has been docked to the space station since the delivery of four astronauts to the International Space Station in late April.
Much was riding on the outcome, after the ill-fated first test flight in late 2019 nearly ended with the vehicle missing after a software glitch that effectively frustrated the spacecraft’s ability to reach the space station.
Subsequent problems with the Starliner’s propulsion system, supplied by Aerojet Rocketdyne, led to Boeing making a second attempt to launch the capsule last summer.
Starliner remained idle for another nine months as the two companies sparred over why the fuel valves had stopped shutting off and which company was responsible for fixing them, Reuters reported last week.
Boeing said it eventually resolved the issue with an interim solution and plans to redesign after this week’s flight.
Besides searching for why the thruster failed soon after launch on Thursday, Boeing said it is monitoring some unexpected behavior detected with its Starliner thermal control system, but that capsule temperatures have remained stable.
“This is all part of the learning process to operate a Starliner in orbit,” Boeing Mission commentator Steve Sisseloff said during a NASA webcast.
The capsule is scheduled to leave the space station on Wednesday for its return trip to Earth, ending with an air-cushioned parachute in the New Mexico desert.
Success is seen as pivotal to Boeing as the Chicago-based company seeks to emerge from successive crises in its aircraft business and its space defense unit. Starliner alone has cost nearly $600 million in engineering setbacks since the unfortunate 2019 crash.
If all goes well with the current mission, Starliner could move its first team of astronauts to the space station as early as the fall.
Currently, the only occupant was a research dummy, whimsically named Rosie Rocketer and dressed in a blue flight suit, strapped to the commander’s seat and collecting data on crew cabin conditions during the flight, as well as 800 pounds (363 kg) of cargo for delivery to the space station.
The orbital platform is currently occupied by a crew of three astronauts from the US Space Agency, one astronaut from the European Space Agency from Italy, and three Russian cosmonauts.
Since the resumption of manned flights to orbit from US soil in 2020, nine years after the end of the space shuttle program, the US space agency has had to rely solely on Falcon 9 rockets and Crew Dragon capsules from Elon Musk’s SpaceX to transport NASA astronauts.
Previously, the only other option for access to the orbiting laboratory was to board the vehicles aboard the Russian Soyuz spacecraft.
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