Boeing’s Starliner capsule arrived at the International Space Station on Friday evening (May 20), marking a milestone for the space giant’s mission to ferry NASA astronauts to and from orbit.
Go Starliner aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket on Thursday evening (May 19), as it embarked on a crucial unmanned mission to the station called Voo 2 orbital test (OFT-2). After about 10 p.m., Spatialship She began to focus on the International Space Station, performing a series of flybys, approaches, and retreats designed to showcase her encounter pieces.
This tropical dance culminated at 8:28 p.m. EDT (0028 GMT May 21) today, when the Starliner finally docked at the station, docking in the forward-facing port of its Harmony Node. the Boeing The spacecraft and station were cruising about 270 miles above the southern Indian Ocean when they met in orbit.
“Starliner is beautiful in front of the space station,” NASA astronaut Robert Haines told mission control at the station after docking.
The docking took place more than an hour later than planned.
NASA and Boeing originally planned to dock the Starliner at the station at 7:10 p.m. EDT (2310 GMT), but first delayed to wait for better lighting and communication conditions, then delayed again to reset NASA’s Space Capsule Docking System, or NDS, when they detect a small anomaly. This reset worked and the Starliner connected seamlessly to its docking port.
However, it was a historic moment for Boeing that Signed a multi-billion dollar contract with NASA in 2014 To transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station using Starliner. Today’s docking showed that the capsule could indeed enter the orbital laboratory – which had failed once before.
The original OFT, released in December 2019, ended prematurely after Starliner was exposed to A series of software bugs They are stuck in an orbit too low to allow a rendezvous with the International Space Station. OFT-2 was originally scheduled to take off last summer, but pre-operational checks revealed that 13 of 24 valves are oxidized in the Starliner’s propulsion system. we were stuck. It took about eight months to identify and address the cause of the problem.
OFT-2 hasn’t worked very well so far either. One of Starliner’s thrusters failed during its critical orbital entry, burning out 31 minutes after liftoff, NASA and Boeing officials said at a post-launch news conference Thursday night.
A backup was made to this drive to compensate, but failed before the write was complete. Then a backup triple booster lifted off and the Starliner was able to reach the correct orbit for the International Space Station rendezvous. NASA officials said the backup-to-backup engine also performed well during the Starliner’s post-engine burn Thursday night.
“The system was designed to be redundant and worked as it should. Now the team is working to find out why these anomalies are happening,” said Mark Naby, vice president and director of programs at Boeing Commercial Crew ProgramHe said at the press conference.
In an emailed statement this afternoon, Boeing representatives said mission team members have now determined that the two missile failures were caused by low chamber pressure. The statement said the propulsion system “operates normally during all propulsion system demonstrations and, with overdrive, poses no risk for the remainder of the flight tests.”
The statement adds that Starliner won a series of experiments before beginning to approach the International Space Station, including abortive maneuvers and testing of its vision-based system, Photoelectric Sensor Assembly (VESTA), which he used to lock down the orbital lab.
“Flight control teams continue to learn more about the vehicle and its operation in space, and continue to do well as they make their way to station,” Boeing representatives said in the statement. “The guidance, navigation and control (GN&C) systems are functioning normally. Flight programs are implemented as planned. Electricity production is a plus.
The statement adds that the team identified unexpected behavior in the “thermal cooling cycle”, but the Starliner was able to maintain a constant temperature.
The Starliner is now safely on the International Space Station, where it will stay for four or five days before heading back for a landing in the western United States. If the capsule can reach its remaining milestones, it could bring NASA astronauts to the station, possibly before the end of the year.
“Today represents a major milestone, providing additional commercial access to low Earth orbit, supporting the International Space Station, and allowing NASA to return humans to the Moon and, eventually, Marten“, said NASA astronaut Haynes at mission control at the station as he congratulated the Boeing team. The great achievements of human spaceflight have long gone down in history. Today will be no different .
And speaking of OFT-2 landmarks – the next big thing to watch out for is the open hatches between the Starliner and the International Space Station, after which astronauts currently living in the orbiting lab can float aboard the newcomer. . This is expected to happen around 11:45 a.m. ET (3:45 p.m. GMT) on Saturday, May 21. You can watch it live on Space.com, Courtesy of NASA; Coverage will begin at 11:30 a.m. ET (3:30 p.m. GMT).
Boeing is not the only company to maintain a commercial crew contract for NASA; The agency has signed a similar agreement with SpaceX In 2014, Elon Musk previously operated the astronaut taxi service, launching four operational manned missions to the International Space Station for NASA so far.
Mike Wall is the author of “Out of the countryBook (Great Grand Publishing House, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrials. Follow him on Twitter embed a tweet. Follow us on twitter embed a tweet or in Facebook.