Boeing docks crew capsule to area station in check do-over

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — With solely a check dummy aboard, Boeing’s astronaut capsule pulled up and parked on the International Space Station for the primary time Friday, an enormous achievement for the corporate after years of false begins.

The solely different time Boeing’s Starliner flew in area, it by no means obtained wherever close to the station, ending up within the flawed orbit.

This time, the overhauled spacecraft made it to the proper spot following Thursday’s launch and docked on the station 25 hours later. The automated rendezvous went off with no main hitch, regardless of a pair of thrusters that failed throughout liftoff.

Boeing’s flight comes three years after Elon Musk’s Spacex pulled off the identical check. SpaceX has since launched 18 astronauts to the area station for NASA, in addition to vacationers.

With Starliner’s arrival, NASA lastly realized its longtime effort to have two crew capsules from competing U.S. corporations flying to the area station. A SpaceX Dragon capsule was parked close by.

If the remainder of Starliner’s mission goes effectively, Boeing may very well be able to launch its first crew by the tip of this yr. The astronauts more likely to serve on the primary Starliner crew joined Boeing and NASA flight controllers in Houston, because the motion unfolded practically 270 miles (435 kilometers) up.

NASA needs redundancy in the case of the Florida-based astronaut taxi service. Administrator Bill Nelson mentioned Boeing’s lengthy highway with Starliner underscores the significance of getting two sorts of crew capsules. U.S. astronauts have been caught using Russian rockets as soon as the shuttle program ended, till SpaceX’s first crew flight in 2020.

Boeing’s first Starliner check flight in 2019 was suffering from software program errors that reduce the mission quick and will have doomed the spacecraft. Those have been corrected, however when the brand new capsule awaited liftoff final summer season, corroded valves halted the countdown. More repairs adopted, as Boeing chalked up practically $600 million in do-over prices.

Before letting Starliner get near the area station Friday, Boeing floor controllers practiced maneuvering the capsule and examined its robotic imaginative and prescient system. Everything checked out effectively, Boeing mentioned, aside from a cooling loop and the 2 failed thrusters. The capsule held a gentle temperature, nevertheless, and had loads of different thrusters for steering.

Once Starliner was inside 10 miles (15 kilometers) of the area station, Boeing flight controllers in Houston might see the area station via the capsule’s cameras. “We’re waving. Can you see us?” joked station astronaut Bob Hines.

The gleaming white-with-blue-trim capsule hovered 33 toes (10 meters) from the station for shut to 2 hours — significantly longer than deliberate — as flight controllers adjusted its docking ring and ensured every part else was so as. When the inexperienced mild lastly got here, Starliner closed the hole in 4 minutes, eliciting cheers in Boeing’s management heart.

The area station’s seven astronauts will unload groceries and kit from Starliner and pack it up with experiments. Unlike SpaceX’s Dragon capsule that splashes down off the Florida coast, Starliner will purpose for a touchdown in New Mexico subsequent Wednesday.


The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives help from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely liable for all content material.

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