The company spent two and a half years fixing a series of technical problems before getting Starliner back to the launchpad, falling behind SpaceX, which has since carried five crews to the space station for NASA.A successful conclusion to the mission could provide NASA sufficient confidence to put astronauts on board for the next Starliner flight, which could occur by the end of the year.
The contracts were issued in 2014, three years after NASA retired the space shuttles.
Its hatch will be opened on Saturday, allowing the astronauts on the space station to start unloading 800 pounds of cargo, mostly food and supplies.Steve Stich, manager of the commercial crew program at NASA, said that as Starliner approached the space station on Friday, two of the smaller thrusters used for smaller course adjustments also failed, but the spacecraft’s other thrusters were able to compensate.
“It was well worth the wait to have Starliner docked to the International Space Station.”.Following a successful return from orbit and landing, Boeing will still have additional work including investigating and fixing the glitches encountered during this flight, It also needs to complete certification of the spacecraft's parachutes, before NASA approves Starliner for carrying astronauts.After a crewed demonstration mission taking two of three NASA astronauts to the space station, Starliner would begin regular operations, taking crews of four to orbit.In addition, Boeing does not have access to the rockets needed to fly Starliner missions beyond what NASA requires.Boeing officials, however, have said they anticipate Starliner will find wider use in the future, including with a private space station called Orbital Reef, which the company is building with two other companies, Sierra Space and Blue Origin, the rocket company founded by Jeff Bezos of Amazon
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