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Boeing anchors crew capsule at International Space Station in testing

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CAPA CANAVERAL, FLORIDA, USA – MAY 18: The ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the Boeings Starliner is stationed at Space Launch Complex 41 for the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission to the International Space Station at Cape Canaveral Space Force Sta

With only one on-board testing fee, Boeing astronaut capsule was set up and parked at the International Space Station for the first time on Friday, a major achievement for the company after years false beginnings.

With the advent of the Starliner, NASA is finally realizing its long-standing effort to have crew capsules from competing American companies flying to the space station.

SpaceX already has a fresh start. Elon Musk’s company did the same test three years ago and has since launched 18 astronauts to the space station as well as tourists.

“Today marks a major milestone,” said NASA astronaut Bob Hines from the space station. “The Starliner is looking beautiful on the front of the station,” he added.

The only other time Starliner and Boeing flew in space, never getting anywhere near the station, ending up in the wrong orbit.

This time, the repaired spaceship arrived at the right place behind Starting Thursday and anchored to the station 25 hours later. The automated meeting went without any major setbacks, despite a pair of propellers failing during takeoff.

If the rest of the Starliner mission goes well, Boeing may be ready to launch its first crew by the end of this year. Astronauts who could serve on the first Starliner crew joined Boeing and NASA flight controllers in Houston as the operation unfolded nearly 435 miles up.

NASA is looking for redundancy when it comes to the Florida-based astronaut taxi service. Administrator Bill Nelson said Boeing’s long journey with the Starliner underscores the importance of having both types of crew capsules. American astronauts had stalled boarding Russian rockets as soon as the ship’s program ended, until the first SpaceX crew flight in 2020.

The Boeing Starliner’s first test flight in 2019 was plagued by software bugs that shortened the mission and could have doomed the spacecraft. They were corrected, but when the new capsule waited to rise last summer, the corroded valves stopped counting down. More repairs followed, as Boeing increased nearly $ 600 million in performance costs.

Before letting the Starliner approach the space station on Friday, Boeing ground controllers practiced capsule maneuvering and tested its robotic sighting system. Everything was well controlled, Boeing said, except for a cooling circuit and two failed drivers. The capsule maintained a stable temperature, however, and had many other drivers for running.

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CAPE CANAVERAL, FLORIDA, USA – MAY 19: A ULA Atlas V rocket carrying the Boeing Starliner spacecraft rises from platform 41 at the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station for the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission on May 19, 2022 in Cape Canaveral, Florida,

After the Starliner was 10 miles (15 kilometers) from the space station, Boeing Houston flight controllers could see the space station through capsule cameras. “We are tempted. Can you see us?” joked Hines.

There was only silence from Starliner. The commander’s seat was once again occupied by the mannequin named Rosie the Rocketeer, a space-era version of Rosie the Riveter of World War II.

The shiny white capsule with the embellished t-shirt stood 33 feet (10 meters) from the station for close to two hours – much longer than planned – as flight controllers adjusted its docking ring and made sure everything else was in order. When the green light finally came, Starliner closed the gap in four minutes, sparking cheers at the Boeing control center. Applause erupted after the latches were firmly fixed.

“These last 48 hours have been just a storm, so it’s going to be a good night’s sleep tonight,” said Mark Nappi, vice president and director of Boeing’s commercial crew program.

It was a double celebration for NASA Commercial Crew Program Director Steve Stich, who turned 57 on Friday. “What an incredible birthday it was,” he told reporters.

The seven space station astronauts will unload food items and equipment from Starliner and pack it with experiments. Unlike the SpaceX Dragon capsule that splashes off the coast of Florida, the Starliner will target a landing in New Mexico next Wednesday.

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