It was a picture perfect launch of a ULA rocket on Thursday night from Cape Canaveral in Florida. The payload, a Boeing Starliner spacecraft, is now en route to the International Space Station, despite a bumpy orbital insertion burn. The capsule will attempt to dock with the orbital outpost at 7:10 p.m. EDT today, and you can watch it live here.
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner has already entered an orbital trajectory that will take the unmanned capsule to the International Space Station. During previous test in 2019, Starliner lack to reach its proper orbit due to a software automation glitch that caused it to perform an unnecessary orbital insert burn. But despite a propulsion problem encountered during yesterday’s orbital insertionStarliner is still on track to reach the ISS at the scheduled time.
The reusable spacecraft is expected to reach the forward port of the space station’s Harmony module at 7:10 p.m. May 20. Live coverage of the automated docking procedure will be available on NASA television and Youtube, as well as the live stream below. The broadcast is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. EDT.
The current mission, Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2), is a critical step toward certifying Starliner as an astronaut-friendly spacecraft. Under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, the space agency is looking to procure two platforms to transport its astronauts to the ISS. A from these, the SpaceX Crew Dragon, is already in action. Boeing is now under pressure to meet its contractual obligation and overcome a multitude of problems who plagued the project —hence the importance of the current ISS docking.
Now that it’s in orbit, Starliner will make a series of slight course adjustments to reach the same orbit as the ISS. Once it closes in on the station, the spacecraft will pause before entering the 656-foot (200-meter) “exclude sphere,” during which flight controllers will assess alignment and readiness to Starliner for mooring, according to the mission profile.
Starliner will then begin docking, stopping again when it comes within 33 feet (10 meters) of the station. This will be followed by the final approach and autonomous docking to an international docking adapter. A “unique vision-based navigation system used to autonomously dock to the orbiting platform as well as its new docking system coverage will be extensively tested”, according to at Boeing. This is expected to happen shortly after 7:00 p.m. EDT tonight, with the hatch scheduled to open May 21 at 11:45 a.m. EDT.
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The 15-foot-wide CST-100 Starliner is designed to carry seven passengers. No humans came for this trip, but one seat is occupied by Rosie the Rocketeer, a test dummy equipped with 15 different sensors. Additionally, the spacecraft carries over 800 pounds of cargo, which includes food and supplies for the current ISS crew.
Starliner will spend approximately five to 10 days tethered to the station, after which it will attempt an uncrewed atmospheric reentry and parachute-assisted landing in the western United States.