Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft successfully docked to the International Space Station (ISS), completing the main goal of its uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2.
The spacecraft, which is designed to take astronauts to the ISS, launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 18:54 Eastern time from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on May 19, 2022.
On May 20, 2022 at 1928 Central Time (0028 UTC, May 21, 2022), the spacecraft made its first connection with the space station. Because there were no astronauts onboard, the CST-100 Starliner’s autonomous systems and ground controllers in Houston guided the spacecraft through the maneuvers required to get closer to the ISS and dock. ISS astronauts also gave the spacecraft some commands to verify controls.
“Today’s successful docking of the Starliner is another important step in this rehearsal for sending astronauts into orbit safely and reliably,” said Boeing Defense, Space & Security President and CEO Ted Colbert.
It was the third attempt for Boeing to launch the Starliner and dock to the ISS. A maiden uncrewed flight in 2019 failed to attain the proper orbit, while the next launch attempt in July 2021 had to be postponed twice after system errors were found.
On its way to the ISS, Starliner performed some system demonstrations to verify the health of the spacecraft. Now the spacecraft has docked to the orbiting laboratory, ISS astronauts will float inside the spacecraft, conduct an initial tour of the cabin, and perform system checks while ground controllers evaluate the data gathered.
NASA said astronauts opened the hatch for the first time to Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft at 1204 EDT on May 21 (1604 UTC), on its uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2. Inside, astronauts Bob Hines and Kjell Lindgren welcomed Rosie the Rocketeer, a dummy astronaut sitting in the commander’s seat. Rosie is outfitted with sensors to collect data on what astronauts can expect when they take a flight on the Starliner.
“Welcome to #Starliner for the very first time ever, in space.” @Astro_FarmerBob takes us on a tour inside the @BoeingSpace spacecraft that arrived on Friday, May 20, on a demonstration flight to the International @Space_Station: pic.twitter.com/uaezcvaWGw— NASA (@NASA) May 21, 2022
For the flight test, Starliner is carrying about 500 pounds of NASA cargo and crew supplies and more than 300 pounds of Boeing cargo. Once it is certified, Starliner will carry up to four crew members to the station, which NASA said will enable the continued expansion of the crew and increase the amount of science and research that can be performed aboard the ISS.
“Starliner has proven safe, autonomous rendezvous and docking capability,” said Jim Chilton, senior vice president, Boeing Space and Launch. “We’re honored to join the fleet of commercial spacecraft capable of conducting transportation services to the space station for NASA.”
Starliner is due to depart the space station on May 25, 2022, when it will undock and return to Earth, with a desert landing in the western United States.