Boeing Starliner docks to International Space Station for first time
The spacecraft made its first connection with the International Space Station’s (ISS) Harmony module at 8:28 p.m. EDT.
Boeing said that – in addition to ground controllers in Houston – astronauts on the space station monitored Starliner throughout the flight and sometimes commanded the spacecraft to verify control capabilities.
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Despite the failure of a couple of thrusters, the automated rendezvous went off without a major hitch.
The Starliner launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 6:54 p.m. ET on Thursday.
The Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) is the second uncrewed test flight of a commercial crew spacecraft.
This image from NASA TV shows the Boeing Starliner preparing to dock at the International Space Station, Friday, May 20, 2022. Boeing’s astronaut capsule has arrived at the International Space Station in a critical repeat test flight. Only a test dum (NASA via AP / AP Newsroom)
The mission was designed to give Boeing and NASA enough data to certify the spacecraft for long-duration crewed missions to the ISS.
“Starliner spent its first hours in space performing a series of system demonstrations allowing mission managers to verify the spacecraft was healthy and able to maneuver safely. After docking, the Starliner recharged its batteries using solar arrays located on the service module,” Boeing said.
Ticker Security Last Change Change % BA THE BOEING CO. 132.23 4.50 3.52% While docked, the crew of the station will float inside the Starliner, conduct an initial cabin tour and periodically perform system checkouts while ground controllers evaluate data gathered during its flight.
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According to NASA, Starliner’s hatch opening is slated to begin at 11:45 a.m. EDT on Saturday.
Starliner will depart the space station, carrying more than 600 pounds of cargo, on Wednesday, May 25.
That cargo will include Nitrogen Oxygen Recharge System reusable tanks that provide breathable air to station crew members. The tanks will be refurbished and sent back to the ISS on a future flight.
After certification, NASA missions on Starliner will carry as many as four crew members.
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Boeing Starliner crew capsule lifts off on a second test flight to the International Space Station from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Thursd (AP Photo/John Raoux / AP Newsroom)
“OFT-2 will provide valuable data toward NASA certifying Boeing’s crew transportation system for regular flights with astronauts to and from the space station,” the agency wrote.
“Starliner has proven safe, autonomous rendezvous and docking capability,” said Jim Chilton, senior vice president of Boeing Space and Launch, said in a statement. “We’re honored to join the fleet of commercial spacecraft capable of conducting transportation services to the space station for NASA.”
Both Boeing and SpaceX were awarded NASA contracts in 2014 to build spacecraft capable of taking crews to the orbiting laboratory, but SpaceX has been the only company to take astronauts up so far.
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The only other time the Starliner was in space, it ended up in the wrong orbit.
The company’s first test flight in 2019 was cut short by software errors and corroded valves stopped the capsule from lifting off last summer.
Fox Business’ Brie Stimson and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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