The Boeing Starliner, one of the two new spacecraft to take astronauts from US soil to the International Space Station (ISS), has returned to Earth safely after its somewhat shaky first Orbital Flight Test. The capsule blasted off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with none drama, however quickly after a timing glitch prevented the spacecraft from reaching its deliberate orbit, denying a rendezvous with the ISS. On Sunday, Starliner returned to Earth, deploying parachutes and airbags to land safely in New Mexico.
Nonetheless, whereas the touchdown was on the right track, Starliner’s journey in space was a unique story. The uncrewed flight test was scheduled to dock with the ISS on Dec. 21 and be despatched again to Earth on Dec. 28. A timing error prevented this maneuver, and so Boeing determined to amend Starliner’s schedule and convey it again to residence soil early. NASA celebrated the mission as one thing of a hit with Boeing ticking off a lot of mission targets.
Whether or not Starliner can carry out maybe probably the most troublesome course of — bodily docking with the ISS 400 kilometers (250 miles) above the Earth because it travels at 7.66 kilometers per second — remains to be to be decided. According to NASA, the craft will now bear refurbishment with Boeing readying it to take astronauts to the area station within the first crewed flight take a look at.
Bridenstine instructed in a pre-flight briefing each SpaceX, and Boeing could be flying crewed missions inside the next couple of months, utilizing the Crew Dragon and Starliner, respectively, to take astronauts to the area station. Whether or not Starliner’s orbital troubles will push Boeing’s plans again is at present unknown, and it isn’t clear whether or not NASA will request one other orbital check flight to exhibit profitable docking.
SpaceX CEO Elon Musk tweeted Friday, “orbit is difficult.” Although Boeing and NASA officers appear happy with the mission targets ticked off throughout this flight, the danger of taking folks to space in a capsule, utterly untried in its docking process, will loom over Starliner’s next flight.