CAPE CANAVERAL: Boeing’s new Starliner capsule was launched on Thursday on a do-over uncrewed test flight bound for the International Space Station, aiming to deliver the company a much-needed success after more than two years of delays and costly engineering setbacks.
The gumdrop-shaped CST-100 Starliner blasted off shortly before 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT) from the Cape Canaveral US Space Force Station in Florida, soaring aloft atop an Atlas V rocket furnished by the Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture United Launch Alliance (ULA).
About 30 minutes after lift-off, the Starliner reached its intended preliminary orbit, after separating from the upper-stage Atlas V rocket and flying on its own power to a planned rendezvous with the space station.
It was at that point in Starliner’s previous test flight in late 2019 that a software glitch effectively foiled the spacecraft’s ability to reach the space station.
The capsule’s flight to orbit on Thursday was not without a hitch. Two onboard thrusters, out of a set of 12, failed during Starliner’s 45-second “orbital insertion” maneuver, NASA and Boeing officials told a post-launch news conference.
However, a backup thruster kicked in, and the maneuver was completed, they said, adding that the malfunction, while yet to be explained, should not prevent the spacecraft from reaching its destination or returning safely to Earth.
“The system is designed to be redundant, and it performed like it was supposed to,” said Mark Nappi, Boeing’s Starliner program manager. “We have a safe vehicle, and we’re on our way to the International Space Station.”