The Boeing CST-100 Starliner has been approved to depart from the International Space Station, setting the stage for the final act in this important end-to-end demonstration of the system. You can watch the whole action live here.
The Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) is completed quickly. The six-day mission began on Friday, May 19 with the launch of an unpaid Starliner perched on top of a ULA Atlas V rocket The spacecraft manages to reach its proper orbit despite some malfunctions in propulsion, allowing it to attach to the space station The next day. Connection tests are complete, and now is the time for Starliner to return home.
The spacecraft is scheduled to disengage from the Harmony unit at 2:36 p.m. (all east) and parachute around 6:49 p.m. NASA will provide full coverage of these return activities starting at 2:00 p.m. The broadcast will stop shortly after the Starliner completes its full departure from the ISS, but will resume at 5:45 p.m. to cover atmospheric re-entry and landing in the western United States. Live webcasts will be available on NASA television, Boeinghis website, YouTubeand the live stream provided below.
The unpaid Starliner is set to land near the White Sands Space Port in New Mexico. The mission operators will check the weather at the landing point about one hour before the release of the ISS and then conduct the “go / no go” poll 45 minutes before the release. The team will try again on Friday in case of any delay.
See how the final phase of OFT-2 will unfold, according to the mission Profile:
When removed to leave the space station, the Starliner disengages, performs a flight maneuver, and is positioned to slow down orbital deceleration by preparing for atmospheric re-entry, where it is treated with a re-heating of 1.6 degrees Celsius (3,000 degrees Celsius). . The Starliner will launch the front thermal shield about 30,000 feet (9 km) above the ground, followed by the development of a series of parachutes. First, two drogue parachutes continue to slow down the Starliner, followed by the export of the three main parachutes. At 3,000 feet [914 meters] from the ground, the airbags inflate to further absorb the initial landing forces, protecting the crew for a smooth, safe return to Earth.
Indeed, unlike SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which performs an ocean landing, the Boeing Starliner performs an airbag landing in the desert. Crew Dragon has been rated by humans since 2020, but OFT-2, if it goes well, will move the program further in that direction. The Boeing CST-100 Starliner, as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, has been delayed due to two previous failed tests. one in 2019 and one last year.
Expedition 67 crew members Bob Hines and Kjell Lindgren closed the spacecraft hatch at 3:00 p.m. on Tuesday. said Hines during the farewell ceremony“It was an honor to be part of this and to be a small cog in the wheel that is the Commercial Crew Program and the amazing teams, the business teams, the design teams that made this vehicle.”
Earlier, a Canadarm2-mounted camera allowed a close inspection of the Starliner’s Thermal Protection System, clearing the spacecraft for re-entry. Hines and Lindgren have spent the last few days performing tests and inspections of the vehicle, in addition to removing 500 pounds of incoming cargo and adding 600 pounds of outgoing cargo for the return trip home (including reusable air supply tanks to ISS crew members).
Upon landing, the Boeing OFT-2 mission will be officially over, but there is still a lot of work to be done. The mission planners will look at the mission data to determine how well the spacecraft performed. As noted, the vehicle encountered propulsion failures while burning the orbital intake, so this is already a matter of concern. Boeing and NASA hope to conduct a test of the Starliner crew later this year, but that will largely depend on the results of this test.