Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule set to dock with space station after successful launch

Home Science Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule set to dock with space station after successful launch
Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule set to dock with space station after successful launch

Boeing’s new Starliner crew capsule has rocketed into orbit on a test flight bound for the International Space Station.

This latest mission comes after years of being grounded by flaws that could have doomed the spacecraft.

Only a test dummy was aboard as the rocket launched. If the capsule reaches the International Space Station on Friday and everything else goes well, two or three NASA test pilots could strap in by the end of this year or early next for the company’s first crewed flight.

It is Boeing’s third shot at the high-stakes flight.

Starliner’s first test flight in 2019 was stricken by software errors so severe that the capsule ended up in the wrong orbit and had to skip the space station. The spacecraft came close to being destroyed as ground controllers hastily cut short the mission.

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After dozens of safety fixes, Boeing returned a different capsule to the launch pad last summer. Corroded valves halted the countdown, resulting in another round of repairs.

The drawn-out test flight program has cost Boeing approximately US$600 million (more than $851 million).

Boeing is seeking redemption as it attempts to catch up with SpaceX, NASA’s other contracted taxi service.

Elon Musk’s company has been flying astronauts to and from the space station for two years and delivering cargo for a full decade.

Eager to reduce its high-priced dependency on Russia for crew transport, NASA hired Boeing and SpaceX to launch astronauts to the space station after the shuttle program ended in 2011.

NASA administrator Bill Nelson said that was why it was so important for Boeing’s Starliner to succeed.

Starliner will spend close to a week at the space station before aiming for a touchdown in the New Mexico desert.

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