In the mean time, solely SpaceX is ready to launch astronauts to the Worldwide House Station from US soil, however Boeing hopes to vary that with an uncrewed take a look at of its Starliner spacecraft
18 Might 2022
, up to date 20 Might 2022
Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft is on its method to the Worldwide House Station (ISS), regardless of a difficulty with its thrusters. The uncrewed take a look at mission, if profitable, will mark an vital step in increasing the potential for sending astronauts to orbit from US soil – one thing solely SpaceX can do for the time being.
The spacecraft is scheduled to reach on the ISS at 23.10 GMT on Friday, virtually 24 hours after it took off at 22.54 GMT on Thursday 19 Might from Cape Canaveral in Florida on high of a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
Whereas the launch was profitable, two onboard thrusters out of 12 failed as Starliner manoeuvred into orbit. Nonetheless, the malfunction is unlikely to be a significant subject, as backup thrusters ensured the spacecraft may proceed on its approach.
“The system is designed to be redundant, and it carried out prefer it was purported to,” mentioned industrial crew supervisor Mark Nappi at a press convention on 19 Might. “We’ve got a secure car, and we’re on our method to the Worldwide House Station.”
The spacecraft has had a troubled previous. In 2019, it was unable to succeed in the ISS after a defective clock meant the rocket’s boosters didn’t correctly hearth after lift-off. In 2021, simply hours earlier than one other scheduled launch, pre-flight checks revealed corroded valves that required restore, and the launch was postponed till 19 Might.
“Getting any new spacecraft into house is at all times difficult,” says Libby Jackson on the UK House Company. “[Space companies] do testing to search out out the issues, so I’m very assured that Boeing have seemed via all of these – they’re not going to the launch pad with out being assured that they’re in a great place to check.”
If Starliner manages to succeed in the ISS on Friday, it’ll be part of SpaceX because the second industrial outfit able to flying US astronauts to house, with Starliner’s first crewed launch pencilled in for later this yr. SpaceX first flew two astronauts aboard its Crew Dragon capsule in Might 2020 and has since flown eight extra astronauts to the ISS on an extra two missions.
In 2018, when Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft was the one method to get to the ISS, a rocket malfunction meant astronauts risked being stranded on the station whereas the difficulty was investigated. A part of the rationale for NASA encouraging the industrial spacecraft sector was to keep away from counting on Russia, a difficulty that has change into extra urgent because the nation’s invasion of Ukraine.
“To have two alternative ways of moving into house will imply that, ought to there be issues on both one, they’ve one other means to get there,” says Jackson. “That’s actually vital for guaranteeing that we’ve continued and secure operations of the Worldwide House Station.”
Signal as much as our free Launchpad publication for a voyage throughout the galaxy and past, each Friday
Extra on these matters: