Boeing docks Starliner capsule to ISS for the first time

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Boeing’s astronaut capsule reaches International Space Station successful uncrewed trial do-over aft respective failed attempts.

Published On 21 May 2022

With lone a trial dummy aboard, Boeing’s astronaut capsule pulled up and parked astatine the International Space Station (ISS) for the archetypal time, a immense accomplishment for the institution aft years of false starts.

With Starliner’s accomplishment precocious connected Friday, NASA has yet realised its longtime effort to person unit capsules from competing US companies flying to the abstraction station.

SpaceX already has a moving start. Elon Musk’s institution pulled disconnected the aforesaid test 3 years agone and has since launched 18 astronauts to the abstraction station, arsenic good arsenic tourists.

“Today marks a large milestone,” NASA astronaut Bob Hines radioed from the orbiting complex. “Starliner is looking beauteous connected the beforehand of the station,” helium added.

The lone different clip Boeing’s Starliner flew successful space, it ne'er got anyplace adjacent the station, ending up successful the wrong orbit.

This time, the overhauled spacecraft made it to the close spot pursuing Thursday’s motorboat and docked astatine the presumption 25 hours later. The automated rendezvous went disconnected without a large hitch, contempt the nonaccomplishment of a fistful of thrusters.

If the remainder of Starliner’s ngo goes well, Boeing could beryllium acceptable to motorboat its archetypal unit by the extremity of this year. The astronauts apt to service connected the archetypal Starliner unit joined Boeing and NASA formation controllers successful Houston arsenic the enactment unfolded astir 435km (270 miles) up.

NASA wants redundancy erstwhile it comes to the Florida-based astronaut taxi service. Administrator Bill Nelson said Boeing’s agelong roadworthy with Starliner underscores the value of having 2 types of unit capsules. US astronauts were stuck riding Russian rockets erstwhile the shuttle programme ended, until SpaceX’s archetypal unit formation successful 2020.

Boeing’s archetypal Starliner trial formation successful 2019 was plagued by bundle errors that chopped the ngo abbreviated and could person doomed the spacecraft. Those were corrected, but erstwhile the caller capsule awaited liftoff past summer, corroded valves halted the countdown. More repairs followed, arsenic Boeing chalked up astir $600m successful do-over costs.

Before letting Starliner get adjacent to the abstraction presumption connected Friday, Boeing crushed controllers practised manoeuvring the capsule and tested its robotic imaginativeness system. Everything checked retired well, Boeing said, but for a cooling loop and 4 failed thrusters. The capsule held a dependable temperature, however, and had plentifulness of different thrusters for steering.

Once Starliner was wrong 15km (10 miles) of the abstraction station, Boeing formation controllers successful Houston could spot the abstraction presumption done the capsule’s cameras. “We’re waving. Can you spot us?” joked Hines.

There was lone soundlessness from Starliner. The commander’s spot was occupied erstwhile again by the mannequin dubbed Rosie the Rocketeer, a space-age mentation of World War II’s Rosie the Riveter.

The gleaming white-with-blue-trim capsule hovered 10 metres (33 feet) from the presumption for adjacent to 2 hours – considerably longer than planned – arsenic formation controllers adjusted its docking ringing and ensured everything other was successful order. When the greenish airy yet came, Starliner closed the spread successful 4 minutes, eliciting cheers successful Boeing’s power centre. Applause erupted erstwhile the latches were tightly secured.

The abstraction station’s 7 astronauts volition unload groceries and cogwheel from Starliner and battalion it up with experiments. Unlike SpaceX’s Dragon capsule that splashes down disconnected the Florida coast, Starliner volition purpose for a landing successful New Mexico adjacent Wednesday.

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