The Starliner capsule is back on Earth and has succeeded in its mission

This is good news for NASA, and especially for Boeing. After a successful launch and a six-day mission in space, the Starliner capsule landed safely on Wednesday, May 25, in the White Sands Desert of New Mexico.

Two mistakes, hard to cash in on

Starliner, however, goes a long way. In 2019, she actually passed the same test as the one she just passed because a software bug at the time blocked her in the wrong lane. Another test failed in August 2021; the company therefore spent approximately $ 600 million on overhauling the capsule’s software, thereby resolving other issues related to the second test, including stuck propulsion valves.

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Boeing, which built the Starliner capsule, has been collaborating with NASA on this program called the Commercial Crew since 2014. SpaceX and its Crew Dragon capsule are also in the game. The goal: to allow the US space agency to have a means of transportation manufactured in the United States to transport its astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). Since the end of the space shuttle in 2011, the United States has actually relied on Russia and its Soyuz to get to the station.

However, Boeing has largely been handicapped by its failed tests, while SpaceX has been transporting astronauts for two years now and has already made five manned trips to the ISS.

Some technical issues, but nothing serious according to Boeing

Starliner is an excellent vehicle for transporting crew said Steve Stich, head of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, at a news conference at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. However, if the mission was generally successful and the capsule ended up in the ISS, it encountered some technical problems.

As reported Ars-Technica, failed two of the spacecraft’s 20 service module main thrusters used for orbital maneuvering shortly after Starliner was separated from its Atlas V rocket, while two small thrusters in the control system also failed during approach to the space station. In addition, one of the capsule’s 12 engines during the vehicle’s atmospheric re-entry appeared to shut down prematurely, and the navigation system’s communication with the GPS network briefly ceased.

Eventually, shortly after landing, the recovery team discovered hydrazine vapors, an oily liquid that was flammable and dangerous to inhale, around the spacecraft. This lingering chemical, which caused the recovery team to temporarily go back, may be due to Starliner not burning all of its propellant.

A first manned Starliner mission soon?

Nevertheless, this test flight was just performed to perfect Starliner; moreover, the Crew Dragon capsule also experienced problems during its unmanned flight, especially with its parachutes. From now on, the experts will perform analyzes on the vehicle and improve everything that needs it.

Despite these nuisances, NASA and Boeing teams are therefore optimistic: ” That’s really what this commercial crew program is all about. I have goosebumps excited Steve Stich. The space agency has finally reached its goal and now has two transport vehicles for its astronauts.

The residents of the first manned mission should be known this summer, with a flight scheduled for the end of the year or first quarter of 2023.

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