Boeing Starliner Completes NASA’s Full Test Flight to ISS

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Whew. Made it. Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft was under a lot of scrutiny during its do-over test flight to the International Space Station and back. 

On Wednesday, it safely returned to Earth with a ground landing at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. 

Starliner’s second Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) was an un-crewed follow to its first flight in 2019 when a software issue prevented it from reaching the space station.  This time, it launched on May 19 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida and successfully docked with the ISS about a day later. The capsule delivered gear to the station and brought back a stash of cargo.

Starliner landed in a puff of sand, lowered by parachutes. 

Boeing is looking to catch up to SpaceX, which is already providing regular crewed flights to the ISS for NASA

“NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and our industry partner, Boeing, today took a major and successful step on the journey to enabling more human spaceflight missions to the International Space Station on American spacecraft from American soil,” NASA administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.   

The Commercial Crew Program is about freeing NASA from reliance on Russian spacecraft for sending astronauts to the orbital laboratory. If Starliner gets the OK to carry humans, it would give NASA two options between Boeing and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.

NASA and Boeing will review data from the mission, including information collected by a sensor-equipped humanoid dummy named Rosie that will help the teams understand what astronauts will experience during flight. If all goes well, the next test flight for Starliner could have astronauts on board.

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