DEC 22, 2019 5:42 AM PST

Boeing Launches Botched Starliner Demo Mission for NASA

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

Boeing finally moved forward with the initial un-crewed test launch of its Starliner Commercial Crew spacecraft for NASA at the end of this past week following months’ worth of hype and excitement. Unfortunately, Starliner didn’t quite perform as expected, and the spacecraft is now slated to return to Earth early after what could only be described as a botched launch attempt.

Boeing's Starliner spacecraft at the top of a ULA-made rocket.

Image Credit: Boeing/NASA/YouTube

After lifting off from a launch pad in Cape Canaveral, Florida atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, Boeing’s Starliner capsule was expected to remain in space for just over a week before returning to Earth and demonstrating its advanced airbag and parachute hybrid landing system. Everything seemed to go smoothly until around half-an-hour later when Boeing broke the news of trouble with the spacecraft’s orbital insertion.

From what we can gather, something was off with the spacecraft’s clock, resulting in an incorrect orbit for a planned docking with the International Space Station. Although Starliner’s orbit was stable per Boeing, the spacecraft had already burned too much of its thruster fuel to correct the problem. Consequently, Boeing was compelled to make the tough decision to end the demonstration mission early.

A video of the launch was streamed by both Boeing and NASA and can be seen below:

Related: Watch NASA drop-test a Boeing Starliner spacecraft

The Starliner spacecraft was carrying a dummy astronaut dressed in a fancy new space suit and a plethora of fresh food and supplies for astronauts already at the International Space Station. Instead of delivering those goods over the weekend, the spacecraft will now return directly to Earth as Boeing hangs its head in shame and contemplates a demonstration mission reattempt.

A video showing the live feed from the landing this weekend can be viewed here:

SpaceX, Boeing’s competitor in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, already succeeded with its first demonstration mission after the Dragon capsule docked with the International Space Station. A while later, however, Dragon endured a smoky anomaly during a controlled thruster test. SpaceX has purportedly rectified the cause of this anomaly, but the commercial space company still needs to demonstrate the safety of Dragon’s landing system.

Related: Watch SpaceX's Dragon capsule dock with the International Space Station

Boeing hasn’t commented on when a Starliner launch reattempt may transpire, but if anything’s obvious, it’s that this failure doesn’t bode well for the company. The latest botch comes after bad press following Boeing’s 737 Max jet airplane crash catastrophes, which resulted in 346 deaths. Boeing has since become greatly unconfident in its 737 Max platform and is now talking about removing all of them from the skies for safety.

While recent events are certainly unfortunate for Boeing and NASA alike, the latter’s Jim Bridenstine appears confident that Boeing will figure things out and get back on track for a new demonstration launch in the near future. SpaceX, on the other hand, could beat Boeing to the punch as it prepares to finalize plans for a landing demonstration and deploy astronauts from American soil for the first time since the Space Shuttle era.

Source: BBC, New York Times, Phys.org

About the Author
  • Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
JUL 07, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Should We Fly By Venus on the Way to Mars?
JUL 07, 2020
Should We Fly By Venus on the Way to Mars?
After landing on the Moon, heading to Mars became the next logical step for space exploration. Some suggest that flying ...
JUL 19, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Did interstellar organic material form water on Earth?
JUL 19, 2020
Did interstellar organic material form water on Earth?
A recent study published in Scientific Reports sheds light on how our planet’s water could have first come to be. ...
AUG 14, 2020
Chemistry & Physics
Cosmic Rays Might Have Played a Role in Shaping Our Genetic Materials
AUG 14, 2020
Cosmic Rays Might Have Played a Role in Shaping Our Genetic Materials
DNA, whose signature double helix structure scored Watson and Crick (and Frankland presumably according to many) a Nobel ...
OCT 07, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Earth-Sized Rogue Planet Found Drifting Through Our Galaxy
OCT 07, 2020
Earth-Sized Rogue Planet Found Drifting Through Our Galaxy
A team of astronomers has found a lone planet the size of Earth drifting through the Milky Way. Known as a ‘rogue ...
OCT 16, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Scientists Watch the 'Spaghettification' of a Star
OCT 16, 2020
Scientists Watch the 'Spaghettification' of a Star
In work that could help scientists understand how matter behaves when it's close to supermassive black holes, a star has ...
NOV 14, 2020
Space & Astronomy
Bacteria Make Space Mining 400% More Effective
NOV 14, 2020
Bacteria Make Space Mining 400% More Effective
Researchers aboard the International Space Station (ISS) have shown that bacteria can increase space mining efficiency b ...
Loading Comments...