US aerospace giant Boeing is making its third attempt to reach the International Space Station on Thursday in a critical unmanned test flight for its Starliner capsule, which has suffered numerous setbacks and false starts.
The take-off for Orbital Test Flight 2 (OFT-2) is scheduled for 18:54 Eastern Time (22:54 GMT) from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, with the spacecraft to be captured on top of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
The success of the mission is key to restoring Boeing’s damaged reputation after the first application, back in 2019, failed to dock with the ISS due to software bugs – one that led to it burning too much fuel to achieve destination, and a second that could destroy the vehicle upon re-entry.
A second attempt was scheduled for August last year, but was canceled from the launch pad to eliminate sticky valves that didn’t open properly, and eventually the capsule was sent back to the factory for fixes.
Boeing and NASA say the drama is now behind.
“There are really no unresolved issues, and we’re ready,” – Mark Nappi, vice president and Boeing Commercial Crew program manager, said at a news conference this week.
NASA is aiming to certify Starliner as the second “taxi” service for its astronauts space station– The role that SpaceX’s Ilona Maska gave after her success in the test mission of her Dragon capsule in 2020.
Both companies won fixed-price contracts – $ 4.2 billion from Boeing and $ 2.6 billion from SpaceX – in 2014, shortly after the completion of the Space Shuttle program, at a time when the United States remained dependent on Russian Union missiles for trips to the orbital outpost.
Boeing with its centuries-old history was considered by many to be a faithful shot, while the then upstart SpaceX was less proven.
In fact, it was SpaceX that moved forward and recently sent its fourth regular crew to the research platform, while delays in Boeing’s development cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars.
The Starliner should dock at the ISS about 24 hours after launch and deliver more than 500 pounds (226 pounds) of cargo, including food and items such as clothing and sleeping bags to the current crew at the station.
Its only passenger is a mannequin named Rosie Rocket – a game on World War II icon Rosie Riveter – whose job is to collect flight data using their sensors to find out what astronauts are waiting for.
“We’re a little jealous of Rosie,” said NASA astronaut Mike Fink, who is expected to be one of the first crews selected for the manned demonstration mission if OFT-2 succeeds.
The drop-shaped capsule will spend about five to ten days in space, then dock and return to Earth, using giant parachutes to land in the desert in the western United States.
NASA views the second vendor in low Earth orbit as an important backup if SpaceX encounters problems.
“This is a really important step for us and a move to have two regularly flying cars with a crew that can take our crew to and from the ISS,” Dana Weigel, deputy head of the ISS program, told reporters.
© 2022 AFP
Citation: The third attempt to launch the Boeing Starliner spacecraft (2022, May 19) was received on May 19, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-05-boeing-beleaguered-starliner-spacecraft.html
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