Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft has successfully landed at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico after ferrying a cargo of supplies to the International Space Station — its first successful orbital mission. While not everything went exactly according to plan, this success could make Boeing a much-needed second provider of commercial ISS launch capacity.
The Starliner started last Thursday and docked with the ISS on Fridaystayed for a long weekend while the crew unloaded the food and other necessities from inside the capsule and performed personal checks of their systems.
It separated earlier today and descended into orbit where it could initiate its descent with a reentry burn. After jettisoning the service module, which provides power and propulsion during flight, it adjusted its heat shield to absorb the brunt of the atmosphere, reaching about 3,000 degrees during descent.
Here’s a view of Starliner’s fiery re-entry from a plane pursuing it at 50,000 feet:
The ship soon lowered its chutes and landed on schedule and on target (a third of a mile from the expected location, which is “basically a bull’s eye”) in the New Mexico desert, where it was recovered by ground crews from Boeing and NASA.
The spacecraft had a minor hiccup during last week’s ascent when two maneuvering thrusters shut down due to pressure problems, but otherwise it was doing reasonably well. If Boeing can convince NASA that this issue is fixed, it could consider a serious opportunity for the future.
The US began weaning itself off Russian Soyuz capsules years ago when it did not seem financially and politically feasible, and the Commercial Resupply and Commercial Crew projects were designed to produce US-made spacecraft capable , supplies and people to the ISS as close as possible to 100% safety.
SpaceX has taken on this task faster and more effectively than Boeing, which has suffered the ignominy of a burgeoning company that surpasses it with ease. But while SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft has proven reliable and now flies regularly to the ISS, we all know the risks of putting all our eggs in one basket — especially when that basket belongs to someone like Elon Musk. Although the past few years have been far from Boeing’s best in many ways, it was hoped that the Starliner would eventually emerge as a viable alternative.
The market for space transport is of course huge, and while the ISS is on the way out in the long term, there will certainly be a successor, not to mention the numerous projects in the Artemis program. This was an incredibly important step for Boeing to prove it could offer these services.
Starliner returns to Earth after a successful first trip to ISS – TechCrunch Source link Starliner returns to Earth after a successful first trip to ISS – TechCrunch
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