After detaching from its port at the ISS Wednesday afternoon, the spacecraft spent about four hours gradually lowering its altitude. As it approached Earth’s atmosphere, the spacecraft lit its thrusters in a fiery blaze of heat and speed before deploying parachutes to slow its descent. It landed in a puff of sand at 6:49 pm ET in a remote area of the New Mexican desert, called White Sands, which has long been the site of aerospace and weapons tests.
The capsule touched down three-tenths of a mile away from the targeted landing site, which the webcast hosts described as “”basically a bullseye.”
This mission was crewed only by a spacesuit-clad mannequin for this test mission, but NASA and Boeing could deem the Starliner ready to fly its first load of NASA astronauts to the ISS by the end of 2022.
Notably, the first attempt to send the Starliner on an orbital test run in late 2019 had to be cut short — taking the vehicle directly back to land rather than to an ISS docking — after software issues sent the vehicle off course. It took nearly two years of troubleshooting before the Starliner was ready to return to the launch pad. Then, an issue with sticky valves further delayed the capsule’s return to flight.
“We intended to learn a lot,” Boeing’s Starliner program manager Mark Nappi told reporters Friday. “We’re going to take that information and apply it in the development of our spacecraft. We are very satisfied by what we’ve learned how the team has reacted to it.”
NASA’s hope is that Boeing’s Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon will give its human spaceflight program redundancy, meaning that if one spacecraft or the other enounters and issue and has to be grounded, it won’t affect NASA’s ability to get crew to the ISS.
Quoted from Various Sources
Published for: The Bloggers Briefing