Boeing’s Starliner space capsule successfully launched to the International Space Station: a test mission unmanned long delayed. The test is critical to show that the aerospace giant can safely fly humans into space.
After many delays due to various technical problems, the test mission of Boeing’s Starliner capsule successfully launched.
The US aerospace giant has performed a new unmanned test for its spacecraft in repetition to that of 2019 towards the International Space Station (ISS).
The launch is a pivotal moment for Boeing, which plans to use its Starliner capsule to bring NASA astronauts to the ISS in the coming years and compete with SpaceX.
Starliner’s first test flight, which departed in December 2019, ended prematurely due to software issues, forcing the mission to return to Earth before docking with the ISS. The test had to be final before the green light could be given to transport the astronauts. Furthermore, its success was to give the green light to the first flight of a crew with an American vehicle after the departure of the Space Shuttle, in 2011.
And the following year the rival SpaceX took over. At the moment, in fact, Elon Musk’s aerospace company is the only US company capable of transporting people on the ISS with the Crew Dragon spacecraft. SpaceX managed to land the first manned flight aboard Crew Dragon to the ISS on behalf of NASA as early as 2020.
So now Boeing has to catch up. The success of today’s test will depend on whether the shuttle can become the second vehicle capable of carrying astronauts on the ISS.
STARTED THE TEST FLIGHT WITHOUT A CREW
The new test flight for Boeing’s Starliner capsule left Cape Canaveral at 00.54 am on May 20.
“This week’s test was initially scheduled for August 2021, but problems with the Starliner capsule have delayed it until this year” he points out. Axios.
Today Starliner will attempt to dock at the space station and will spend four to five days attached to the orbital outpost before returning to Earth.
WHAT IS STARLINER BY BOEING
Like SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, Boeing’s Starliner is tasked with restoring the United States’ ability to transport humans into space.
Designed to carry up to seven passengers, the capsule is designed to launch into orbit with an Atlas V rocket, automatically dock with the International Space Station and finally land back to Earth via a series of parachutes. Once deemed operational, Starliner will primarily transport NASA astronauts to and from the space station. But before NASA feels comfortable putting people aboard, the space agency wants Boeing to demonstrate the capability of Starliner’s operating systems in orbit.
A company that has proved to be a real challenge for Boeing over the past three years.
Boeing first attempted to launch an unmanned Starliner in 2019, but the spacecraft never made it to the space station as planned. At the behest of NASA, the company has agreed to give the test flight another chance, with a test scheduled for summer 2021.
Last August Boeing and NASA had scheduled another test, but blocked valves in the vehicle’s propulsion system delayed the mission for another nine months.
The cumulative delays cost Boeing $ 595 million more.
THE DELAYS OF THE LAST YEARS
Both Boeing and SpaceX have received contracts from NASA to help develop their human spaceflight systems in order to end the space agency’s dependence on Russian systems after the space shuttle program ended in 2011.
As of 2010, NASA has spent over $ 5 billion on the Starliner program, but the mission is years behind schedule.
THE COMPETITION WITH SPACEX
And while SpaceX has four manned operational flights to its credit, Boeing has yet to perform a single manned mission in a Starliner capsule.
If everything goes as planned on today’s mission, Starliner could transport its first crew of astronauts in the fall. However, NASA officials have already warned that it could (still) suffer delays.