UPDATE: NASA officials said Saturday that the Starliner capsule would return to Earth early Sunday morning:
MYSTERY WIRE — Boeing’s Starliner test on Friday went off course, failing to reach its planned orbit. As a result, the capsule — which is not carrying a crew — will be brought back to Earth early rather than keeping its appointment to dock with the International Space Station.
The launch went as planned, but after the Starliner capsule separated from the Atlas rocket, onboard rockets failed to take it to the proper orbit.
Boeing said the Starliner is in “a safe and stable configuration.” NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said too much fuel had already been burned to get the capsule to ISS.
Bridenstine said an anomaly with one of Starliner’s clocks caused the problem. The clock made the spacecraft’s systems behave as if the mission was further along than it was and use up much of its fuel too early.
Boeing previously had a test go wrong when landing a capsule. Only two of the three parachutes deployed, and the problem was attributed to human error. Today’s test was the final planned test for Boeing before crews would be on board.
Speaking about the state of the delays in private development by Boeing and SpaceX — more than 2 years behind schedule — Bridenstine said NASA would not rush.