Boeing undertook its Starliner spacecraft, constructed to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station, on an uncrewed test mission toward the orbiting outpost on Thursday evening. After two previous attempts to achieve such a mission ceased to function, Boeing’s goal is to demonstrate that the spacecraft can land with the ISS, and it must succeed before moving on to tasks with people on board.
On Thursday, the spacecraft took to the skies at 6:54 pm, riding on an Atlas V rocket that lifted off from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Later, when the rocket delivered the capsule into orbit, the spacecraft fired its thrusters to acquaint it in the right direction. Boeing officials verified that the Starliner’s “orbital insertion” signifies that the spacecraft is on the right way and is roughly half an hour after liftoff.
“We had two thrusters fail,” Mark Nappi, vice president and program manager of Boeing’s Starliner program, announced. “The first one that fired, it fired for a second, and then it shut down. The flight control system did what it’s supposed to, and it turned it over to the second thruster.”
Starliner has proven to be a challenging program for Boeing, which initially hoped the spacecraft would be functional in 2017 but has been plagued by delays and development hangups. The first attempt of this test flight was named OFT-1 in 2019; however, it was cut short because of an issue with the Starliner’s onboard clock. The error caused the thrusters onboard the capsule to misfire, knocking it off course, and the officials decided to take the spacecraft back home instead of continuing the mission. It took more than a year to root out that problem and other software issues.