Washington, May 21 (IANS) Boeing’s passenger spacecraft, the CST-100 Starliner, on Saturday successfully docked itself to the International Space Station (ISS) for the first time, paving the way for its future flights to potentially bring humans to the orbiting laboratory.
This was the Starliners’ third attempt, on a mission designed to test the end-to-end capabilities of the crew-capable system as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme.
The first was in December 2019, which failed due to a series of software glitches. In the second attempt last August, Boeing halted the flight just hours before liftoff, after discovering some propellant valves that weren’t working properly.
“Through the combined work of @NASA and Starliner teams, the spacecraft connected to the Boeing-built International Docking Adapter at 7:28 p.m. CT (5:58 am India time),” Boeing Space said in a tweet.
NASA tweeted: “The @BoeingSpace #Starliner that just arrived at the @Space_Station on a test flight is carrying over 500 lbs (227 kg) of cargo & crew supplies.”
The Starliner lifted off on NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Friday.
“I am so proud of the NASA, Boeing and United Launch Alliance teams who have worked so hard to see Starliner on its way to the International Space Station,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson had said in a statement.
“Through adversity, our teams have continued to innovate for the benefit of our nation and all of humanity. I look forward to a successful end-to-end test of the Starliner spacecraft, which will help enable missions with astronauts aboard,” he added.
Following certification, NASA missions aboard Starliner will carry up to four crew members to the station, enabling the continued expansion of the crew and increasing the amount of science and research that can be performed aboard the orbiting laboratory.
OFT-2 will provide valuable data toward NASA certifying Boeing’s crew transportation system for regular flights with astronauts to and from the space station.
Starliner is scheduled to depart the space station Wednesday (May 25) when it will undock and return to Earth, with a desert landing in the western US.
The spacecraft will return with more than 600 pounds of cargo, including Nitrogen Oxygen Recharge System reusable tanks that provide breathable air to station crew members. The tanks will be refurbished on Earth and sent back to station on a future flight.
The successful launch and orbital insertion are major milestones for the company’s second uncrewed flight, bringing the US closer to having two independent crew systems flying missions to and from the space station, the other one being Elon Musk’s SpaceX.