© Reuters. ARCHIVE PHOTO: Boeing the Atlas V rocket carrying the Boeing CST-100 Starliner capsule is seen after the launch on the International Space Station was delayed for a test flight to Cape Canaveral, Florida, USA, on 4 August 2021. REUTERS / Joe Skipper / Stock Photo
By Joey Roulette and Steve Gorman
CAP CAÑAVERAL, Fla. (Reuters) – Boeing’s new Starliner crew capsule (NYSE 🙂 first landed on the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday, completing a major goal in a test flight of large orbit bets without astronauts in board.
The appointment of the rubber-shaped CST-100 Starliner with the advanced orbital research site, which currently houses a seven-member crew, came almost 26 hours after the capsule was launched from the base of the Force. US Space from Cape Canaveral to Florida.
The Starliner took off on an Atlas (NYSE 🙂 V rocket supplied by the Boeing-Lockheed Martin United Launch Alliance (ULA) on Thursday and reached its preliminary orbit 31 minutes later despite the failure of two propellers on board. .
Boeing said the two defective propellers posed 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 give NASA another vehicle to send your astronauts to and from orbit.
The ISS docking took place at 20:28 EDT (0028 GMT on Saturday) when the two vehicles flew 271 miles (436 km) over the South Indian Ocean off the coast of Australia, according to commentators. of a live NASA webcast of the link.
It was the first time that the spacecraft of the two partners in NASA’s commercial crew program were physically connected to the space station at the same time. A SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule has been docked to the space station since it delivered four astronauts to the ISS in late April.
ROAD BACK TO ORBIT
The result was closely related, after an unfortunate first test flight in late 2019 nearly ended with the loss of the vehicle after a software error that effectively thwarted the spacecraft’s ability to reach the space station.
Subsequent problems with the Starliner propulsion system, supplied by Aerojet Rocketdyne, led Boeing to scour a second attempt to launch the capsule last summer.
Starliner remained on the ground for nine more months as the two companies argued over what caused the fuel valves to shut down and which company was responsible for fixing them, as reported by Reuters last week.
Boeing said it has finally solved the problem with a temporary solution and plans a redesign after this week’s flight.
In addition to looking for a cause of propellant failures shortly after Thursday’s launch, Boeing said it was monitoring some unexpected behavior detected with Starliner’s thermal control system, but that the capsule’s temperatures remained stable.
“All of this is part of the learning process to operate Starliner in orbit,” Boeing Mission commentator Steve Siceloff said during a NASA webcast.
The capsule is scheduled to leave the space station on Wednesday for a return flight to Earth, which will end with the landing of a parachute softened with air bodies in the New Mexico desert.
A success is considered crucial for Boeing, as the Chicago-based company is struggling to emerge from successive crises in its aircraft business and space defense unit. The Starliner program alone has cost nearly $ 600 million in engineering setbacks since the 2019 crash.
If all goes well with the current mission, Starliner could fly its first team of astronauts to the space station as early as the fall.
At the time, the only passenger was a search mannequin, whimsically named Rosie the Rocketeer and dressed in a blue flight suit, tied to the captain’s seat and collecting data on the condition of the crew cabin during the voyage, plus 800 free (363 kg) of cargo to deliver to the space station.
The orbital platform is currently occupied by a crew of three NASA astronauts, an astronaut from the European Space Agency in Italy and three Russian cosmonauts.
The director general of the Russian space agency Roscosmos, Dmitri Rogozin, noted the docking in a post on social media on Saturday, adding: “The station is not in danger. Aboard the Russian segment of the ISS there is order “.
Since resuming manned flights into orbit from U.S. soil in 2020, nine years after the end of the space shuttle program, the U.S. space agency has had to rely solely on Falcon 9 and Elon Musk’s SpaceX company Crew Dragon capsules to fly NASA astronauts.
Previously, the only other way to get to the orbital lab was to take a trip aboard the Russian spacecraft Soyuz.