An unpiloted demonstration flight of Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule ended prematurely Sunday with a smooth airbag-cushioned predawn landing in New Mexico after a timing glitch prevented it from docking with the International Space Station, leaving some test objectives incomplete as NASA begins analyzing data to determine if astronauts should fly on the next Starliner mission.
A day after a timing error caused it to enter the wrong orbit and miss its objective of meeting up with the International Space Station, Boeing’s unpiloted Starliner crew capsule prepared for its next major test Sunday, when it will plunge back into the atmosphere and target a predawn landing at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico.
Boeing specialists working inside a former space shuttle hangar in Florida started fueling the company’s first spaceflight-ready Starliner capsule this week ahead of the ship’s rollout to its launch pad later this month. The fueling milestone is a major step in the Starliner launch campaign, and comes after engineers concluded that human error led to a parachute deployment malfunction during a crew capsule abort test Monday.
A Boeing Starliner crew capsule fired off a stand early Monday at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on a mile-high test flight to validate the spacecraft’s emergency escape thrusters. Only two of the ship’s three main parachutes deployed on descent, but Boeing officials do not expect any impacts on the planned launch of an unpiloted Starliner demonstration mission to the International Space Station in December.
Boeing officials said Wednesday that the company is targeting Dec. 17 for the launch of the first unpiloted orbital test flight of the new Starliner crew capsule from Cape Canaveral on a week-long demonstration mission to the International Space Station, a precursor to a mission with astronauts next year.