Take a look back on the liftoff of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft on its first unpiloted orbital test flight Dec. 20 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket with these photos showing the capsule streaking into space at dawn.
The 172-foot-tall (52.4-meter) Atlas 5 rocket — flying in a new human-rated configuration — lifted off at 6:36 a.m. EST (1136 GMT) from Cape Canaveral’s Complex 41 launch pad.
The first launch of the Starliner spacecraft marked the 81st flight of an Atlas 5 rocket since its debut in 2002, and the 66th Atlas 5 flight from Cape Canaveral.
The Boeing-built crew capsule’s planned mission to the International Space Station was cut short by an elapsed timing error that a prevented the ship from performing its programmed orbital insertion burn soon after an otherwise successful launch on the Atlas 5 rocket.
The malfunction caused the capsule to burn too much propellant, and the spacecraft entered an unplanned orbit to conduct two days of in-space demonstrations before returning to a smooth landing in New Mexico on Dec. 22.
The mission was a precursor to the first Starliner mission with astronauts on-board. NASA and Boeing are reviewing data from the abbreviated Orbital Flight Test before formally deciding whether to proceed with a crewed mission on the next Starliner launch.
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