Starliner coming in for landing Sunday after failing to dock with space station
Investigation continues into missing orbit
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – After its mission was cut short, NASA and Boeing executives said in a conference call Saturday that Starliner is in a healthy orbit and will attempt its return to Earth on Sunday morning.
The spacecraft without a crew is expected to touch down in at NASA’s facility in White Sands, New Mexico at 7:57 a.m. Sunday.
A glitch after lift off stopped Starliner from reaching the necessary height to dock with the International Space Station on Friday.
NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine believes the mistake could have been avoided.
"Had we had an astronaut on board the spacecraft, an astronaut could have provided mission control with a lot of options that very well could have put us in a position to go to the International Space Station," he said.
Since Friday’s mishap, Boeing executive Jim Chilton said independent teams have been brought in by NASA and Boeing to make sure there aren’t any more surprises.
"We had something unexpected happen for orbital insertion," the senior vice president of Boeing's Space and Launch division said. "Not just what exactly happened with the timer, is there anything like that where you're retrieving data where it could affect us on entry. Over the last 24 hours, we've had teams working hard. Right now, we think we're ready to go."
This video shows a key #Starliner Orbital Flight Test objective: separation from ULA Centaur second-stage. Sep happened just before the Mission Elapsed Timing anomaly.— Boeing Space (@BoeingSpace) December 21, 2019
See more OFT mission objectives accomplished: https://t.co/GH4mO7fFW8 pic.twitter.com/tQRmDP3Acg
This test is all a part of Boeing’s attempt to revive human spaceflight from U.S soil. Starliner is one of two spacecrafts part of NASA’s commercial crews program currently in testing, with hopes to fly U.S. astronauts as soon as next year.
“In between now and the landing, we’re doing final checks of all the systems on the space craft,” said Steve Stich, deputy manager of NASA’s commercial crew program.
#Starliner flight controllers and engineering teams tested the NASA Docking System in orbit today by executing a series of extensions and retractions. The NDS connects Starliner to @Space_Station by extending and retracting a docking ring, as shown in this prior test video. pic.twitter.com/c6PgWUwerr— Boeing Space (@BoeingSpace) December 22, 2019
Now, the focus has shifted to navigate landing Starliner in New Mexico as it approaches entry at 25 times the speed of sound.
“We have more to prove,” Chilton said. “We have to prove this spacecraft will enter and be a healthy system.”
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