Starliner makes history in redefined ‘victory’
Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test concluded today (Sunday Dec. 22) when the Starliner capsule touched down at White Sands Missile Range. Launched Friday, the mission saw the first U.S.-built crew-rated capsule land on soil rather than splashing down in the ocean.
After spending two days in a lower-than-planned (about 155 miles or 250 kilometers) orbit, the OFT spacecraft touched down at 5:48 a.m. MST (6:48 a.m. CST) at White Sands Space Harbor on the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Boeing had estimated landing would take place at 5:57 a.m. MST. Given that a timing discrepency kept the capsule from achieving its primary objective, flying to and docking with the International Space Station, this miniscule difference is somewhat ironic.
Boeing had to make due with completing secondary objectives and the OFT mission ended five days earlier than planned. Under the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, NASA paid Boeing an additional $1.6 to Boeing than it did to SpaceX. Despite the extreme disparity in funding, SpaceX successfully reach the International Space Station nine months ago. It is unclear when Boeing will try again – or how much more it will cost the U.S. taxpayer.
In a statement released just after the spacecraft and its occupant, a dummy named “Rosie” touched down representatives with the company focused on what went right. This included the vehicle’s landing systems, primarily its parachutes and airbags.
“The Starliner team’s quick recovery and ability to achieve many mission objectives – including safe deorbit, re-entry and landing – is a testament to the people of Boeing who have dedicated years of their lives working toward the achievement of commercial human spaceflight,” said John Mulholland, vice president and program manager of Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program. “Their professionalism and collaboration with our NASA customer in challenging conditions allowed us to make the most of this mission.”
Boeing posted some screen grabs from NASA TV to highlight the mission’s return.
Video courtesy of NASA
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