AP

Boeing crew capsule launches to space station on test redo

May 19, 2022, 3:55 PM | Updated: May 20, 2022, 11:04 am

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Boeing Starliner crew capsule lifts off on a s...

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Boeing Starliner crew capsule lifts off on a second test flight to the International Space Station from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force station in Cape Canaveral, Fla., Thursday, May 19, 2022. (AP Photo/John Raoux)

(AP Photo/John Raoux)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Boeing’s crew capsule rocketed into orbit Thursday on a repeat test flight without astronauts, after years of being grounded by flaws that could have doomed the spacecraft.

Only a test dummy was aboard. If the capsule reaches the International Space Station on Friday and everything else goes well, two or three NASA test pilots could strap in by the end of this year or early next for the company’s first crew flight.

It’s Boeing’s third shot at the high-stakes flight demo.

At least this time, Starliner made it to the proper orbit, quickly giving chase to the space station despite the failure of a pair of thrusters. But the all-important rendezvous and docking loomed.

“That’s another big day for us,” said Mark Nappi, vice president and manager of Boeing’s commercial crew program. “So there might be a couple of sleepless nights ahead of us still to get through the rest of the mission, but today feels really good.”

Starliner’s first test flight in 2019 was stricken by software errors so severe that the capsule ended up in the wrong orbit and had to skip the space station. The spacecraft came close to being destroyed as ground controllers hastily cut short the mission.

After dozens of safety fixes, Boeing returned a different capsule to the launch pad last summer. Corroded valves halted the countdown, resulting in another round of repairs.

The drawn-out test flight program has cost Boeing approximately $600 million.

“We’re not going to fly (crews) unless we feel like we’ve bought down the risk,” stressed NASA space operations chief Kathy Lueders.

Boeing is seeking redemption as it attempts to catch up with SpaceX, NASA’s other contracted taxi service. Elon Musk’s company has been flying astronauts to and from the space station for two years and delivering cargo for a full decade.

Eager to reduce its high-priced dependency on Russia for crew transport, NASA hired Boeing and SpaceX to launch astronauts to the space station after the shuttle program ended in 2011. That’s why it’s so important for Boeing’s Starliner to succeed, said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

“We always, in this case, want to have a backup,” Nelson told The Associated Press hours before liftoff.

Different in looks but similar in function to SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, Boeing’s fully automated capsule will attempt to dock at the space station on its own. Station astronauts will be ready to steer the capsule by remote control, if necessary.

The capsule still has 10 good thrusters for major moves, including dropping out of orbit at flight’s end, officials said. The two failed ones actually fired briefly before shutting down prematurely one after the other; a backup kicked in to get the spacecraft into the right orbit.

“We’re doing this one step at a time, and we right now need to get this spacecraft through its paces and learn some things,” Lueders told reporters following liftoff.

Starliner will spend about five days at the space station before aiming for a touchdown in the New Mexico desert next Wednesday.

NASA has yet to finalize which astronauts will be on the first Starliner crew. The program is so far behind that the original three have stepped aside. The leading candidates gathered at Cape Canaveral for the evening launch of Starliner atop United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket.

“We’re thrilled for this because the next one is us,” said astronaut Butch Wilmore.

Besides Rosie the Rocketeer — a space-age version of World War II’s Rosie the Riveter — the capsule is carrying groceries and spacewalking gear for the seven station residents. U.S. spacewalks have been on hold since an astronaut’s helmet took on water in March. NASA is sending up extra absorbent pads for use in helmets, in case an emergency spacewalk is required as the investigation continues.

Boeing also is flying mementos from historically black colleges and universities and tree seeds similar to those Apollo astronauts took to the moon that became so-called moon trees here on Earth.

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

AP

The U.S. Supreme Court is seen, Thursday, Feb. 8, 2024, in Washington. The U.S. Supreme Court has h...

Associated Press

Supreme Court decision on Trump’s election status could come Monday morning

A SCOTUS decision could come Monday in the case about whether Trump can be kicked off the ballot over his efforts to undo his 2020 defeat.

2 days ago

Republican presidential candidate former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley poses for a selfie after speakin...

Associated Press

Nikki Haley wins D.C. Republican primary, her first 2024 victory

Nikki Haley has won the Republican primary in the District of Columbia, notching her first victory of the 2024 campaign.

2 days ago

An Apache group that has fought to protect land it considers sacred from a copper mining project in...

Associated Press

A US appeals court ruling could allow mine development in central Arizona on land sacred to Apaches

An Apache group that has fought to protect land from a copper mining project in central Arizona suffered a significant blow.

2 days ago

On Friday, March 1, 2024, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said yogurt sold in the U.S. can ma...

Associated Press

Eating yogurt may reduce risk of type 2 diabetes, FDA says

Eating at least two cups of yogurt a week might reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said.

2 days ago

Arizona will not approve new housing construction on the fast-growing edges of metro Phoenix that r...

Associated Press

Arizona Senate passes plan to manage rural groundwater, but final success is uncertain

A plan to manage rural groundwater passed the Arizona Senate amid concerns about the availability of sufficient water for future generations.

4 days ago

A woman pauses while shopping at a Kohl's store in Clifton, N.J., Jan. 26, 2024. On Thursday, Feb. ...

Associated Press

Federal Reserve’s preferred inflation gauge picked up last month in sign of still-elevated prices

An inflation gauge favored by the Federal Reserve increased in January, the latest sign that the slowdown in U.S. consumer price increases is occurring unevenly from month to month.

5 days ago

Sponsored Articles

...

Collins Comfort Masters

Here’s 1 way to ensure your family is drinking safe water

Water is maybe one of the most important resources in our lives, and especially if you have kids, you want them to have access to safe water.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Day & Night is looking for the oldest AC in the Valley

Does your air conditioner make weird noises or a burning smell when it starts? If so, you may be due for an AC unit replacement.

...

Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Valley residents should be mindful of plumbing ahead of holidays

With Halloween in the rear-view and more holidays coming up, Day & Night recommends that Valley residents prepare accordingly.

Boeing crew capsule launches to space station on test redo