MYSTERY WIRE (AP) – U.S. aerospace giant Boeing is set to redo a vital unmanned test flight of its reusable Starliner crew capsule on Tuesday (August 2), 19 months after a failed mission to the International Space Station.
During its space debut in December 2019 with no one on board, the Starliner capsule ended up in the wrong orbit and could not reach the International Space Station.
Ground controllers had just enough time to solve another software problem that could have destroyed the capsule at flight’s end.
Closing out their seven-month investigation in July 2020, NASA officials said they had identified 80 corrective actions, mostly involving software and testing, that must be done before the Starliner capsule launches again.
“This is another repeat of the first test of an un-crewed Starliner spacecraft,” explains NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.
“The first one had a malfunction in the software. So, NASA is very careful, we want this one to go perfectly all the way to the International Space Station, to dock autonomously, and then to return home with a landing on the desert in the western U.S., we want that to go perfectly before we put human astronauts on the first actual flight with humans. That is the reason we’re doing the second orbital flight test.”
White with black and blue trim, Boeing’s Starliner capsule is 16.5 feet (5 meters) tall with its attached service module – the height of a giraffe – and 15 feet (4.5 meters) in diameter.
It can fit up to seven people, though crews typically will number four. Boeing eventually wants to sell empty seats to private researchers or even tourists.
“A decade ago, only professional astronauts had the opportunity to go to space, and that is changing step by step,” says NASA astronaut Butch Wilmore.
“We’ve had some individuals that have flown on Russian rockets that are not professional astronauts that have gone to space. We have now in the process of getting others that are not professional astronauts to low Earth orbit. And I think that will continue, and that’s a good thing.”
NASA and Boeing are set to repeat the uncrewed Starliner test flight on Tuesday, August 2 before attempting to launch astronauts to the ISS.
Originally set for Friday (July 30), they are now targeting a 1:20 p.m. EDT launch onboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
The spacecraft is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station on Wednesday, August 4.
NASA says the five-to-ten-day flight test will help prove the Starliner system is ready to carry astronauts to the space station later this year.