By MARCIA DUNN, AP Aerospace Author
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Boeing’s crew taxi returned to Earth from the Worldwide House Station on Wednesday, finishing a repeat check flight earlier than NASA astronauts climb aboard.
It was a fast journey again: The Starliner capsule parachuted into the New Mexico desert simply 4 hours after leaving the orbiting lab, with airbags hooked up to cushion the touchdown. Solely a model was buckled in.
Apart from thruster failures and cooling system snags, Starliner appeared to clinch its high-stakes shakedown cruise, 2 1/2 years after its botched first strive. Flight controllers in Houston applauded and cheered the bull’s-eye landing.
“It’s nice to have this unimaginable check flight behind us,” mentioned Steve Stich, director of NASA’s industrial crew program. He described the demo as “extraordinarily profitable,” with all goals met.
Added Boeing’s Mark Nappi, a vp: “On a scale of 1 to 10, I feel I’d give it a 15.”
Based mostly on these early outcomes, NASA astronauts will strap in subsequent for a visit to the house station, maybe by yr’s finish. The house company has lengthy needed two competing U.S. corporations ferrying astronauts, for added insurance coverage because it drastically diminished its reliance on Russia for rides to and from the house station.
Elon Musk’s SpaceX is already the established chief, launching astronauts since 2020 and even vacationers. Its crew capsules splash down off the Florida coast, Boeing’s Starliner returns to the Military’s expansive and desolate White Sands Missile Vary in New Mexico.
Boeing scrapped its first try to succeed in the house station in 2019, after software program errors left the capsule within the fallacious orbit and practically doomed it. The corporate fastened the failings and tried once more final summer time, however corroded valves halted the countdown. Following extra repairs, Starliner lastly lifted off from Cape Canaveral final Thursday and docked to the house station Friday.
Station astronauts examined Starliner’s communication and pc techniques throughout its 5 days on the house station. In addition they unloaded a whole bunch of kilos (kilograms) of groceries and different provides that flew up within the Boeing capsule, then stuffed it with empty air tanks and different discarded gear.
A folded U.S. flag despatched up by Boeing stayed behind, to be retrieved by the primary Starliner crew.
“We’re slightly unhappy to see her go,” station astronaut Bob Hines radioed because the capsule flew away.
Alongside for the journey was Starliner’s check dummy — Rosie the Rocketeer, a takeoff on World Warfare II’s Rosie the Riveter.
The repairs and do-over price Boeing practically $600 million.
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