At last, Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft is poised to dock with the International Space Station. It’s been a long journey, with many setbacks, but the teams seem ready for Boeing’s capsule to join the orbiting laboratory for the first time.
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner
Starliner is Boeing’s entrant to the Commercial Crew Program. Once operational, it will join SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule in ferrying NASA Astronauts to and from the International Space Station. Starliner will carry up to four NASA astronauts at a time to the station, and it’s launched on ULA’s Atlas V rocket.
Unlike Dragon, which parachutes down and splashes into water for recovery, Starliner is capable of returning to land on solid ground. To do this, and provide a relatively soft landing, the spacecraft makes use of airbags on the base of the capsule in addition to the necessary parachutes.
OFT-2 is Boeing’s second orbital flight test attempt of the capsule, after OFT-1’s capsule ran into multiple issues on orbit. With those issues addressed, and later complications also addressed Boeing’s capsule was ready for launch yesterday evening on ULA’s rocket. For Starliner, the Atlas V is in its N22 configuration. The N means there are no fairings, the first two means there are two solid rocket boosters, and the second two means the rocket has a dual-engine Centaur upper stage.
The rocket and spacecraft took flight from SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 6:54 p.m. ET on Thursday, May 19.
The capsule ran into some issues with two thrusters on orbit, but a third thruster was able to adjust, and teams are still a go for docking with the ISS planned for around 6:10 p.m. ET.
I am incredibly grateful to our NASA, Boeing, and United Launch Alliance teams that have demonstrated persistence, resolve, and dedication to ensuring we were ready for launch today and for this flight test. We have learned so much as we’ve 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 continuing to learn and improve as we prepare to fly our astronauts on Starliner.Kathy Lueders, NASA associate administrator for space operations
After a successful orbital flight test, Boeing still has a crewed flight test ahead of it before it will join SpaceX’s Dragon in the operational rotation of NASA astronauts.