Boeing’s Starliner Capsule docked with the International Space Station (ISS) on Friday, following an unmanned test flight key to recovering the reputation of the American aerospace giant after a series of failures.
Docking took place at 00:28 GMT on Saturday, more than an hour later than originally planned due to final checks during maneuvers.
Astronauts aboard the ISS and the control room in Houston closely monitored the docking. The capsule first stabilized about 230 meters from the station. Then, after a slight advance, he stepped back. to show that he could do it if necessary.
Finally, after a new controlled stop, although longer than expected, 10 meters from the ISS, the delicate final maneuver began. He approached slowly, until making contact.
“The Starliner spacecraft successfully completes its historic first docking with the International Space Station, opening a new route to the orbiting laboratory for crews,” said a commentator on the US space agency’s (NASA) live stream.
The hatch of the capsule, which carries about 230 kilos of supplies for the ISS, will not open until Saturday.
Starliner must remain docked with the ISS for five days, before returning to Earth to land in the desert of the US state of New Mexico, at the base of White Sands.
Mission success is key to repairing Boeing’s tarnished reputation, after a first failure in 2019.
On that occasion, the attempt to dock with the ISS failed due to software errors, which involved burning too much fuel to reach its destination and even the possibility of destroying the ship during its re-entry.
A second attempt was scheduled for August last year, but was delayed from the launch pad to fix a valve problem, and the capsule had to be returned to the factory.
NASA seeks to certify Starliner as a second “taxi” service for astronauts to the ISSa role that Elon Musk’s SpaceX has already fulfilled since the success in 2020 of its test mission with its Dragon capsule.
Its only passenger is a mannequin named Rosie the Rocketeer. – a pun on the star of the US World War II recruiting campaign, Rosie the Riveter – whose job is to collect flight data with sensors about what humans should experience.
The spacecraft followed the correct trajectory but had problems with two of the 12 thrusters used for the maneuver. Nevertheless, The anomaly, which is being investigated by the agency’s engineers, should not affect the mission, NASA spokesmen reported. at a post-launch press conference.
One of Starliner’s 12 orbital maneuvering and attitude control (OMAC) thrusters failed after one second, at which point a second thruster came into action but also shut down after 25 seconds.
The ship’s software then activated a third thruster, which completed the necessary combustion.
The OMAC thrusters will be used to bring the capsule closer to the ISS and to help pull the spacecraft out of orbit at the end of the mission.
NASA signed contracts in 2014 with fixed amounts of 4.2 billion dollars for Boeing and 2.6 billion for SpaceX, when the United States depended on Russian Soyus rockets to reach the ISS, after the closure of its space shuttle program.
Boeing, with its centuries-old history, was considered by many to be a safe bet against the practically inexperienced SpaceX.
But Musk’s company recently sent its fourth routine crew to the ISS, while Boeing’s development delays have cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars.
(With information from AFP)
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