The test flight of Boeing’s Starliner to the International Space Station was supposed to be a major step in the triumphant US return to crewed orbital spaceflight. Then something went wrong.
The Boeing CST-100 Starliner lifted off atop an updated Atlas V booster rocket on Friday morning, from Cape Canaveral in Florida. NASA blames ‘timing error’ for the Boeing spaceship missing its mark in orbit.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine and executives from Boeing and the United Launch Alliance (ULA) were in attendance.
No crew was on board; this was a fully automated test, with the mission of docking with the ISS in low Earth orbit and proving that the USA can once again launch American astronauts on American rockets from American soil, instead of using Russian vehicles.
Instead of executing a proper orbital burn after separation from the booster rocket, the Starliner engines misfired. The capsule found itself in a “stable” – but wrong – orbit, with Boeing and NASA scrambling to get it safely back to Earth.
The failed test is a major setback on their quest to restore crewed space capability that the USA lost in 2011 with the end of the Space Shuttle program.
Since then, the only way for NASA to send a crew to the ISS has been to buy seats on board the Soyuz spacecraft, operated by Russia’s space agency Roscosmos.
Earlier this year, as NASA celebrated the 50th anniversary of the dubious Moon landing, it danced around the fact that it currently has no capability to send astronauts into orbit, much less repeat the feat of Apollo 11.
Boeing and Space-X were supposed to have their spaceships ready by 2019, but both the Starliner and the Crew Dragon have run into testing mishaps, shifting the timeline and requiring NASA to keep booking seats aboard the Soyuz.
With Friday’s failure of the Starliner, it seems that the earliest US crewed spaceflight won’t happen until 2021, a full decade after the last Shuttle flew.
RT. com / ABC Flash Point News 2019.