Boeing Starliner’s Test Flight to the ISS

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After its failed first attempt to reach the International Space Station in 2019, the Boeing Starliner is now ready to try it again. Read on to learn more about this spacecraft and its mission.

What is the purpose of the Boeing Starliner?

Like SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner is a reusable commercial spacecraft that NASA plans to use for transporting astronauts to the ISS. Both spacecraft will allow NASA to stop relying on Russian Soyuz rockets for flights to low-Earth orbit.

While Elon Musk’s spacecraft has already carried humans into space, Starliner has yet to prove its capability of doing so. First, it will fly an uncrewed mission, and then – if it’s a success – a crewed test flight will follow.

The Starliner capsule has a diameter of 4.56 meters and can hold up a crew of up to seven astronauts. It was designed to remain in orbit for up to seven months and be reused up to ten times.

What time is the Starliner launch?

The Boeing Starliner will launch on August 3, at 1:20 p.m. EDT (17:20 GMT) from the Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral. The spacecraft will be carried into space by an Atlas V rocket. The mission is called Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT-2); it will be an uncrewed flight that will transport more than 180 kilograms of cargo to the International Space Station.

If all goes as planned, Starliner will dock with the ISS on August 4. The capsule will remain docked to the station for five days; on August 9, it is planned to undock and land on White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Starliner will bring about 250 kilograms of cargo back to the Earth, including reusable Nitrogen Oxygen Recharge System (NORS) tanks that provide breathable air to station crew members.

As we’ve already mentioned, this mission will be Starliner’s second attempt to reach the ISS. You’ll be able to watch the launch and docking procedures live on NASA’s website. You can also check the website for live updates on the mission.

What went wrong with the Boeing Starliner in 2019?

In December 2019, Starliner already performed an uncrewed orbital flight. The capsule was intended to dock with the ISS, stay docked for eight days, and then return to the Earth. However, the flight wasn’t entirely successful.

Thirty-one minutes after the launch, an error occurred with the mission elapsed time (MET) clock, which was offset by 11 hours. Due to this error, the spacecraft entered an incorrect orbit, burned too much fuel, and was unable to dock with the space station. For this reason, NASA decided to cancel the docking procedure, reduce the mission to only three days, and bring the spacecraft back to the Earth earlier than planned.

Let’s keep our fingers crossed and hope Starliner makes it to the ISS this time!