Boeing launches its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on its critical second test flight [VIDEO]
The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft set off for its second test flight to the ISS. As it was before, the ship was crew-less.
In the past years, NASA launched a program to develop commercial manned spacecraft to carry astronauts to the ISS.
As a result of the competition, two companies received flight contracts: Boeing (with the Starliner) and SpaceX (with Crew Dragon).
The Starliner consists of a reusable capsule and a detachable disposable service module.
The capsule is designed to carry up to seven crew members and flights lasting up to 60 hours. Additionally, the ship can stay docked to the ISS for more than 200 days.
The Starliner was supposed to fly for the first time in the mid-2010s, but in the initial test in 2019, Boeing began to have problems shortly after launch.
The spacecraft entered an incorrect orbit and spent too much fuel on this maneuver. This made it impossible to correct the orbit for a flight to the station. Three days later, the ship returned safely to Earth.
The Boeing team eventually found that an error in the timing system led to an incorrect maneuver.
The test program included three flights: tests of the crew rescue system during takeoff, an unmanned flight to the ISS, and a flight to the station with a crew.
Since Starliner went into orbit and allowed engineers to test many aspects of the flight, it remained unclear for a long time whether Boeing would have to launch the ship without a crew a second time, or whether it would be possible to go straight to flying with astronauts.
But three months later, the company, together with NASA, decided to repeat the unmanned flight.
Now the company has launched its second flight: At 6:54 pm (EDT), an Atlas V rocket with a Starliner took off from Cape Canaveral.
Almost 15 minutes after takeoff, the ship separated from the rocket, while being in an unstable orbit with parameters of 72.9 by 181.5 kilometers.
Then, 31 minutes after launch, the ship turned on its own engines to reach a stable orbit.
The trip to the station will take a little more than a day. The Starliner will have to dock with the Harmony module and spend about four days as part of the ISS.
Then the ship will undock, fire its deorbit engines, and parachute to one of five pre-selected areas in the US.
NASA expects that this capsule will go again into space during the first crew mission from Boeing and the agency.
Edit: At around 8:28 p.m. EDT (on 20 May), the Starliner docked at ISS for 1st time.
- Space.com: https://www.space.com/boeing-starliner-space-capsule-oft-2-launch-success
- Spacenews.com: https://spacenews.com/atlas-5-launches-starliner-on-second-uncrewed-test-flight/