By Cody Roark
NASA has revealed that the Boeing Starliner spacecraft has missed its orbit and has returned to Earth. The Starliner capsule is stable and has landed safely in New Mexico this morning.
Boeing’s Starliner capsule launched successfully from Cape Canaveral, Florida this past Friday. However, it did not reach the correct orbit to dock with the International Space Station as intended. This was due to an automated timer that malfunctioned after launch, altering the course of the spacecraft. NASA and Boeing attempted to manually correct the errors resulting from the autonomous flight system. However, the commands, sent across NASA’s satellite network, were delayed because the spacecraft was already in the wrong position in space. NASA and Boeing are both currently investigating why the timer failed. The automated timer went through extensive testing before the flight and did not report any errors.
The original mission for the new spacecraft was for it to launch into orbit around Earth and rendezvous with International Space Station. The Starliner would then drop off its cargo and return safely to our planet’s surface. The mission was meant to be a demonstration of Boeing’s Starliner’s capabilities and safety features.
The failed mission is a major setback for NASA and Boeing combined. For Boeing this setback is immediately following the announcement of the company’s decision to halt production of its 737 Max planes. The company’s shares have already dropped 1.6% so far. A successful mission could have been the push Boeing needed in order to get its company on the rise once again. As for NASA, this failed mission could mean further design changes and testing before the spacecraft is ready for a manned launch. There is also the possibility having to perform another unmanned test flight like the one launched on Friday. This would delay NASA’s timeline and drive up the costs of this project substantially.
Despite these setbacks, the company should still be able to test much of the Starliner’s systems while the spacecraft is still in orbit. “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 told reporters. The mission will, at least, not be a total loss in that respect. NASA and Boeing will still gather much needed data and information regarding the capsule before its reentry to Earth’s atmosphere.
Another setback for Boeing and NASA is disappointing to hear, however that’s all part of the process of moving forward in science and technology. The world is still moving forward in the realm of space travel and exploration regardless. If humans across the globe have proven anything throughout history, it’s that they learn from mistakes and improve. The process of getting the Starliner ready for manned flight will continue, as will the advancement of the human race in the world of science.