On Friday night, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner successfully landed on the International Space Station as part of a flight test without a crew for NASA’s crew crew program.
The Starliner was launched from the Space Launch Complex-41 with the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket at the Cape Canaveral Space Station in Florida. After launching into orbit, Starliner conducted a series of system demonstrations to make sure the spacecraft was “healthy” and could maneuver safely.
According to Boeing, ground controllers in Houston used Starliner’s autonomous systems to steer the unmanned spacecraft into orbit, while astronauts from the space station observed Starliner in flight and sometimes commanded the spacecraft to test control.
“Starliner has proven safe, autonomous convergence and the ability to jump,” said Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Boeing Space and Launch.
The spacecraft itself is equipped with a fully functional life support system, as well as other critical support systems for humans. For this specific test mission, Starliner transported about 500 pounds of cargo and NASA crew and more than 300 pounds of Boeing cargo to the space station.
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Both Boeing and NASA said the flight test helped further data collection to help certify the spacecraft for manned missions to the International Space Station, where Starliner can carry up to four crew members at once.
“I am incredibly grateful to our NASA, Boeing and United Launch Alliance teams for their perseverance, determination and dedication to ensure we are ready to launch today and for this flight test,” said NASA’s Assistant Administrator for Space Operations. Catherine Lueders.
We learned so much as we worked together to prepare for this mission, and we look forward to watching the spacecraft arrive at the space station for the first time and continue to learn and improve as we prepare to fly with our astronauts. Starliner ”
As long as the Starliner remains attached to the space station until Wednesday, the plane will recharge its battery using solar arrays, while the space station crew will periodically check the system and ground controllers will evaluate data collected during the flight, Boeing said.
The spacecraft is also expected to return with more than 600 pounds of cargo, including reusable oxygen tanks, which will be repaired on the ground and sent back to the station on a future flight.
Starliner’s arrival in space stations comes eight years after NASA first gave Boeing $ 4.2 billion to build Starliner and help the government agency realize its plans for the commercial space industry. At that time, SpaceX was also allocated $ 2.6 billion to build Crew Dragon.
This latest launch marks Starliner’s second unmanned flight, but the company’s third attempt to test Starliner after the second attempt was scrapped last year due to problems with its valve system. Boeing launched the first Starliner in December 2019, but the spacecraft had to return to Earth before boarding the space station due to software problems.