Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft docked with the International Space Station for the first time this Friday (Saturday morning in Portugal). As we said, this unmanned mission was an important test for the company, which has the ambition to compete with Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Thus, this Saturday morning, a little more than 25 hours after its launch, the capsule arrived at the International Space Station (ISS).
Starline will remain linked to the ISS for four or five days. Then, as planned, the capsule will return to Earth and land in New Mexico.
Boeing's Starliner has finally made it to the ISS
A nave Starliner da Boeing successfully reached and docked on the International Space Station, reaching a milestone in a crucial test flight that would determine if it is ready for manned missions. The unmanned spacecraft launched above a United Launch Alliance Atlas V Rocket from Cape Canaveral and traveled over 25 hours to reach the orbiting laboratory.
Starliner made its first attempt to reach the ISS in December 2019, but failed to achieve its objective due to a software glitch that prevented the spacecraft's thrusters from firing. In August last year, Boeing had to cancel launch plans due to a problem with the spacecraft's valves, preventing the company from planning another launch for nearly a year.
The docking with the ISS, which was scheduled for 12:10 a.m. (mainland Portugal time, ended up happening at 01:28. Indeed, shortly before 10:50 p.m. (Friday), when the spacecraft was 180 meters from the ISS, controllers assessed monitoring and performance data from the capsule and estimated that it would be in an inappropriate position. . It was then necessary to carry out a maneuver of retreat.
After approaching within 180 meters of @Space station, #Starliner performed an automatic retreat to 200 yards. The capsule has shown its ability to move away from the station in a controlled and timely manner and to maintain itself at an intended location.
— Boeing Space (@BoeingSpace) May 20, 2022
According to Boeing, this maneuver was timely to demonstrate the capsule's maneuverability control capability.
At 00:08 a.m. this Saturday, the Boeing reported that the capsule was 10 meters from the orbital complex, and that the team would hold a meeting to "ensure that both spacecraft are ready for final approach".
Also during the approach, the controllers reported "a small problem" with the mooring system, which further delayed the process. According to NASA, it took removing the Starliner hitch ring and resetting it to figure out the problem.
To see #Starliner successfully, autonomously rendezvous and dock with @Space station during #OFT2. Thanks to the combined work of @NASA and teams Starliner, the spacecraft connected to the Boeing-built International Docking Adapter at 7:28 p.m. CT. pic.twitter.com/GHnz59zHXa
— Boeing Space (@BoeingSpace) May 21, 2022
Starliner also encountered problems at launch
Boeing's Starliner capsule was launched on Thursday night atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Launch Complex-41, a platform on the US space station's Force Station at Cape Canaveral, in Florida.
Starliner separated from the rocket's upper stage about 15 minutes after launch. A minute later, the capsule began the orbital insertion process.
Meanwhile, two of Starliner's thrusters did not fire as intended. The first failed after just one second. Your backup was triggered immediately, but it also failed after 25 seconds. This activated a third backup booster, and the capsule was able to complete the crucial burn without incident.
As presented at the time by the company, the Boeing spacecraft is equipped with four thruster groups in its rear part, called in industry nomenclature "doghouses". Each of these groups contains three engines of orbital maneuver and attitude control (OMAC), which are used to perform combustion in important maneuvers such as reaching orbital insertion.
The two OMAC thrusters that failed, and the third that entered to compensate, were all in the same niche and pop at Starlineraccording to Boeing representatives.
As noted, the Starliner spacecraft will remain docked to the ISS for the next five days before making its return trip, which will see it touch down in the New Mexico desert. If the spacecraft successfully returns to Earth, Boeing could then send astronauts into orbit as soon as this fall.