Boeing’s Starliner Capsule Fails on Its First Test Flight

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft encountered some issues after it went off track a few minutes after it launched. The capsule had its first test flight, which is a critical trial run for its primary launch with astronauts, scheduled to take place next year.

The test went great as the Atlas V rocket blasted off with the Starliner before the sunrise. However, minutes into the flight, Boeing stated that the operators could not get the capsule into the position required to get it to the International Space Station (ISS). The company said that flight controllers were insisting that the capsule was in a steady orbit according to the options.

It Could Have Been a Success

The Starliner​ was scheduled to travel to the space station. The United Launch Alliance launched from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and was visible in the atmosphere for approximately five minutes.

Numerous spectators crowded the area, keen to witness Starliner’s first flight. This was Boeing’s opportunity to overhaul SpaceX, NASA’s other steady commercial crew supplier, that fruitfully completed an analogous test last March. SpaceX has one last barrier, which is a launch abort test, before transporting two NASA astronauts in its Dragon vehicle – a mission set to launch in the spring.

“The U.S. needs competition like this,” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said, “to drive down launch costs, boost innovation and open space up to more people.”

The American space agency made station supply missions a job of private businesses, as well as first cargo and crews, in order to entirely concentrate on getting astronauts on the Moon and on to Mars.

Commercial cargo missions started in 2012, being performed by SpaceX. Crew capsules were more challenging to create and build, and parachute and other technical issues postponed the first scheduled launch for 2017 to 2020.

A ‘Comfortable’ History With NASA

Designed to accommodate seven people, the Starliner​ capsule will normally transport four to five people. It is 16.5 feet (5 meters) tall when it has its module attached and 15 feet (4.5 meters) in diameter.

The Starliner​ transported Christmas treats and presents for the six astronauts currently residing in the ISS as part of the test flight. The voyage was supposed to test all systems, starting with the vibrations and highlights of the launch, to the December 28th touchdown at the Army’s White Sands Missile Range located in New Mexico. Parachutes and airbags will make the capsule land softer.

The day before the flight, Bridenstine said that he is ‘very comfortable’ with Boeing, in spite of the postponed grounding of the company’s 737 Max jets. He also noted that the spacecraft and aircraft segments of the company are different.

Boeing has been involved with NASA’s human spacecraft program for a long time, starting with the Project Mercury to the shuttle and station missions, and started working on the Starliner in 2010. Back in 2014, the company, along with SpaceX, was awarded $4 billion and $2.6 billion, respectively. Boeing was contracted to create and fly its Starliner capsule, while SpaceX had to build a crew version of its Dragon cargo ship.

“We’re talking about human spaceflight,” Bridenstine cautioned. “It’s not for the faint of heart. It has never been, and it’s never going to be.”

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