Boeing’s Starliner is attempting another uncrewed flight to the International Space Station on Thursday. This will be the first time a commercial spacecraft has attempted this feat since 2011, when SpaceX made it possible for companies to launch rockets with their own payloads into orbit without paying NASA.
The who is on the ISS right now is a question that I am unable to answer.
At the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spaceship. (Photo credit: PA)
Boeing will try its second uncrewed trip to the International Space Station (ISS) as part of a test to demonstrate that it can safely travel to and from the orbiting lab.
The CST-100 Starliner capsule will deliver supplies and test equipment to the space station, but the mission’s primary goal will be to show that the spacecraft can successfully launch, dock, re-enter the atmosphere, and land in the desert.
The launch date has been set for July 30 at the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida, by NASA and Boeing.
If the flight is successful, Starliner will be able to serve as Nasa’s “taxi service,” transporting astronauts to and from the space station.
Due to technical problems, Starliner failed to rendezvous with the space station on its maiden uncrewed test flight in 2019.
The spacecraft, however, was able to return to Earth two days after launch, landing in New Mexico’s White Sands Space Harbour.
Boeing and Nasa teams collaborated over the last 18 months to address the problems, which included 80 remedial measures.
“After evaluating the team’s data, and the preparedness of all partners, everyone said ‘go’ for the launch,” said Kathy Lueders, Nasa’s director of spaceflight, after Starliner’s flight readiness test last week.
Meanwhile, SpaceX, a competitor in the aerospace industry, has already sent three astronaut teams to the International Space Station in its Crew Dragon spacecraft.
Elon Musk’s business made history last year when it carried Nasa astronauts Robert Behnken and Douglas Hurley to and from the space station, becoming the first commercial enterprise to do so.
Since the termination of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, Nasa has relied on Roscosmos, Russia’s space agency, to transport personnel to the International Space Station.
Nasa granted contracts to SpaceX and Boeing in 2014 as part of its Commercial Crew Program to provide crewed launch services to the space station.
The Starliner will be sent into orbit on an Atlas V rocket operated by United Launch Alliance, an American space launch firm (ULA).
In addition to supplies and equipment, Rosie the Rocketeer, a dummy, will fly aboard the spaceship.
She’ll be strapped into the Starliner’s commander’s seat, and her primary goal will be to keep the spacecraft’s center of gravity stable.
Rosie will be outfitted in a brilliant blue spacesuit similar to the one that astronauts would wear on the Starliner.
Rosie the Rocketeer, a dummy pilot, pilots the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spaceship. (Photo credit: PA)
The Starliner capsule, like SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, is reusable, although it is claimed to be capable of flying up to ten trips, compared to Crew Dragon’s five.
While SpaceX has chosen to land on the ocean, Boeing’s spaceship will land on land at one of five locations in the western United States.
This landing technique, according to Boeing, “allows for faster access to crew and cargo, as well as more efficient turning around capsules for future flights.”
In the meanwhile, Nasa has chosen the first two sets of astronauts who will fly aboard the Starliner.
As part of the Crew Flight Test mission, Mike Fincke, Nicole Mann, and Barry “Butch” Wilmore are scheduled to be the first astronauts to launch into space on the Starliner.
This trip will primarily serve as a demonstration of Boeing’s capacity to safely transport humans to and from the space station.
If successful, astronauts Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, and Jeanette Epps will fly to the International Space Station on Boeing’s first-ever operational crewed mission.
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