Autonomous flight system malfunction causes Boeing Starliner to fail key NASA mission

Boeing’s spacecraft Starliner failed to meet its intended orbit after it was launched on Friday, ultimately rendering it unable to complete its mission of docking with the ISS (International Space Station). There was no human crew aboard because the flight was planned to be one of the last key tests before the Starliner could finally transport astronauts from NASA.

Purpose of the mission

The Starliner was meant to reach the International Space Station, deliver a payload and safely return. This would have demonstrated its safety features and overall capabilities. Unfortunately, seconds after launch, the autonomous flight control system of the Starliner misfired and offset the Starliner, putting it in the wrong orbit.

Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator, stated: “When the spacecraft separated from the launch vehicle, we did not get the orbital insertion burn that we were hoping for.”

What’s the future of the spacecraft?

Boeing says that they were able to correct the trajectory of the Starliner to some extent, ultimately getting the vehicle to stable orbit around our planet while engineers and scientists analyze the options that remain for the future of the mission. According to NASA and Boeing, even if astronauts were aboard, they would have been totally safe.

“There’s probably an opportunity to practice spacecraft guidance and control, just not at the same proximity to the station that we previously thought.” – Boeing’s answer to reporters’ questions.  

After all of this, Jim Bridenstine says that it is too early to know whether the next iteration of the Starliner will have a human crew on board or not.

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