The Starliner capsule is already in orbit and a key week for Boeing begins

Florida.- At 6:54 p.m. local time, the Atlas V rocket of the ULA company successfully took off from platform 41 at the Cape Canaveral Air Space Base, lifting the CST-100 capsule, Starliner, into Earth orbit. developed and built by the division boeing aerospace.

The capsule is part of the NASA program commercial crewing, whereby two private companies were selected to transport NASA astronauts and their commercial partners to and from the International Space Station. Both SpaceX and Boeing were given the responsibility to develop and build, under NASA supervision and certification, two new manned space capsules. SpaceX would do it with its ship called Dragon (an improvement on its already proven loading capsule), while Boeing developed Starliner.

The case of the company led by Elon Musk, which has carried out five manned missions for NASA, of which four are already part of the official astronaut rotation program on the Space Station, a successful cycle that began with its flight, is already well known. manned test DM-2 (Demonstration Mission 2), in May 2020, the first time NASA had launched a manned mission from its own soil in nearly 10 years, and the first time it had done so via rocket and capsules developed by a private company.

Photo: Manuel Mazzanti

But the North American space agency does not want to have a single way to get to the Space Station, it needs at least two companies to be able to have safe and uninterrupted access to the ISS and to be able to increase and maintain constant the number of astronauts, work and research that are carried out. do in orbit.

NASA lost for almost 10 years (since the cancellation of the space shuttle program) the ability to send its own astronauts to Earth orbit, having to go and pay Russia for seats in its Soyuz capsules, a situation that would be today almost impracticable given the prevailing geopolitical situation. NASA needs Starliner to be operational.

After a first test mission (2019) in which the Starliner capsule did not reach the desired orbit and without the possibility of being able to dock with the Station, Boeing offered to carry out a second test mission to check all the capabilities of the ship.

Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT2), planned for August 2021, was unable to take off after several valves belonging to the fuel system in the capsule’s service module refused to work. Ultimately, Boeing had to remove Starliner from the top of the rocket and return it to its processing building at the Kennedy Space Center to analyze the problem. After several months of investigations, he was able to determine that the humidity of the atmosphere in the state of Florida, combined with the nitrate tetroxide that is used as fuel for the rockets that help the capsule to maneuver in orbit, produced corrosion, thus preventing its correct operation.

After almost nine months of its first attempt and working on a temporary solution to prevent corrosion in the valves of the service module, the OFT2 mission has successfully lifted off and Starliner is already on its way to its rendezvous with the Space Station.

What is the main objective of this mission? Achieve NASA certification for being able to fly astronauts on a regular basis. And for that you need:

-Test your rendezvous system or rendezvous and docking with the ISS

-Successfully docked, demonstrating the ability to connect your power, data, load transfer, and communications systems

-Undock from the station, re-enter the atmosphere and successfully land at the White Sands Space Harbor base, in the state of New Mexico, planned for the last hours of May 25.

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A vital mission for Boeing and NASA, which will open the door for the United States space agency to finally have two manned capsules to carry crew to and from the Space Station.

The Starliner capsule is already in orbit and a key week for Boeing begins