CAPE CANAVER (AP)

With only a test dummy on board, a Boeing astronaut capsule took off on Friday and parked on the International Space Station, a huge achievement for the company after years of false launches.

With the arrival of Starliner, NASA is finally realizing its long-standing efforts to obtain capsules for the crew of competing U.S. companies flying to the space station.

SpaceX has already started working. Ilona Maska’s company conducted similar tests three years ago and has since launched 18 astronauts and tourists into the space station.

“Today marks a big milestone,” NASA astronaut Bob Hines said on the radio from the orbital complex. “The Starliner looks beautiful in front of the station,” he added.

The only other time Boeing Starliner flew into space, it never reached the station, was in the wrong orbit.

This time the refurbished spacecraft hit the right spot after launch on Thursday and docked at the station 25 hours later. The automated meeting passed without serious collisions, despite the failure of several engines.

If the rest of the Starliner mission goes well, Boeing may be ready to launch its first crew by the end of this year. The astronauts, who are likely to serve in Starliner’s first crew, joined Boeing and NASA flight controllers in Houston when the action unfolded nearly 270 miles (435 kilometers).

NASA wants a reduction in numbers when it comes to the astronauts ’taxi service based in Florida. Administrator Bill Nelson said Boeing’s long journey with Starliner underscores the importance of having two types of capsules for the crew. U.S. astronauts were stuck riding Russian rockets after the shuttle program ended, until the first flight of the SpaceX crew in 2020.

The first test flight of the Boeing Starliner in 2019 was marked by software bugs that shortened the mission and could condemn the spacecraft. They were fixed, but when the new capsule was waiting to take off last summer, the corrosion of the valves stopped the countdown. Repairs followed, as Boeing credited nearly $ 600 million in repair costs.

Before allowing Starliner to approach the space station on Friday, Boeing ground controllers practiced in maneuvering the capsule and tested its robotic vision system. Boeing said everything went well, except for the cooling circuit and four failed engines. The capsule kept a stable temperature, however, and had many other motors to control.

Once the Starliner was within 10 miles (15 kilometers) of the space station, Boeing flight controllers in Houston could see the space station through capsule cameras. “We are waving. Do you see us? ” Hines joked.

There was only silence on the part of Starliner. The command post was again taken by a mannequin named Rosie Rocket, a version of the space age Rosie Riveter from World War II.

The gleaming white, blue-capsule capsule hovered 33 feet (10 meters) from the station for nearly two hours – much longer than planned – when flight controllers adjusted its dock ring and made sure everything else was in order. When the green light finally came on, Starliner narrowed the gap by four minutes, causing a standing ovation at Boeing’s control center. Applause erupted as soon as the latches were tightly fastened.

“The last 48 hours have been just a storm, so today will be a very good night’s sleep,” said Mark Nappi, vice president and program director of Boeing’s commercial crew.

It was a double celebration for NASA’s commercial crew program director Steve Steach, who turned 57 on Friday. “What an incredible birthday it was,” he told reporters.

Seven astronauts from the space station will unload products and equipment from Starliner and pack it up through experiments. Unlike the Dragon capsule from SpaceX, which is splashed off the coast of Florida, Starliner will be looking to land in New Mexico next Wednesday.

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