The Starliner, Boeing’s space capsule, landed on Wednesday May 25, the successful completion of an important test mission for the company, which wants to prove its ability to bring NASA astronauts International Space Station (ISS). The capsule, with no passengers on board, landed in the desert in the U.S. state of New Mexico, at the White Sands base, at 00:49 French time. “A nice landing on White Sand tonight”said a commentator on the NASA video broadcast.
Its descent is braked by its entry into the Earth’s atmosphere, then by large parachutes, and contact with the ground is preceded by large airbags. The safe landing allowed the American aeronautical giant to finally complete a successful mission from start to finish, after a failure in 2019. And, at the same time, to restore its image in a little, after being caught by SpaceX, whose capsule is already serving. as a NASA taxi since 2020. Boeing wants in the future to hire its services to take its astronauts to the International Space Station.
The Starliner hatch was closed Tuesday by astronauts aboard the ISS. He was carrying his 270 kilograms of cargo, including usable oxygen tanks, which would be filled to Earth and returned to orbit later. The Starliner flew from Florida on Thursday, May 19, and landed on the ISS for the first time the next day. In recent days, many tests have been done to verify the proper functioning of the car, once connected to the flying laboratory. But Friday’s successful landing was a real relief for Boeing, after the first test in 2019. The Starliner will have to return sooner than expected before arriving at the station.
After this first failed mission and a long period of adjustment, the test flight will have to be tried again in August 2021. But once the rocket is already on the launch pad, the capsule valves are blocked due to on the problem of humidity. The ship had to return to the factory to be repaired, within ten months.
This time, it was good to fly to the ISS, despite some hiccups, especially a problem found with the propulsion system: two of the 12 thrusters used in the capsule to put itself on the right trajectory after on takeoff does not work.
However, NASA and Boeing officials were reassuring about the significance of the incident. The capsule also landed later, due to a technical problem with the device that allowed it to be attached to the station.
A next person test
After this mission, a second demonstration flight, this time with astronauts on board, will have to be made for the spacecraft to get NASA certification. Boeing hopes to achieve this by the end of the year, then begin regular ISS missions. But the exact time will depend on analysis of Starliner’s performance in recent days. The U.S. space agency has signed fixed-price contracts with SpaceX and Boeing.
By using both companies, it wants to diversify its options, so as not to risk finding itself without American means of transportation, such as after the closure of the space shuttle in 2011. Until SpaceX, NASA was actually down to pay for Russian seats. Soyuz rockets.
Elon Musk’s company, newer in the aerospace industry than Boeing, has already carried 18 astronauts to the ISS with its own capsule, Dragon, as well as four private passengers, during a mission in space tourism.