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Boeing’s Starliner Docks With Space Station for NASA

  • May 21, 2022

Boeing is one of two companies that NASA has hired to take astronauts to and from the I.S.S. The contracts were issued in 2014, three years after NASA retired the space shuttles. The agency then had to rely on Russia to transport astronauts for nearly a decade. While SpaceX, founded by Elon Musk, is currently carrying crews to orbit, a second transportation option for NASA offers redundancy in case either spacecraft suffers an accident, and it prevents further reliance on Russia, which has become politically complicated since it invaded Ukraine earlier this year.

A day after it launched from Florida, the nose of the Starliner latched onto one of the docking ports at the space station at 8:28 p.m. Eastern time. Its hatch will be opened on Saturday, allowing the astronauts on the space station to start unloading 800 pounds of cargo, mostly food and supplies.

The launch, orbital approach and docking encountered some glitches but not major problems. After Starliner separated from the second stage of the Atlas 5 rocket that carried it to space, two of the spacecraft’s thrusters failed during a firing to put it in a stable orbit. Other thrusters kicked in automatically to compensate. On subsequent firings, the propulsion system worked without problem, and Boeing said in a statement that the problem would not pose a risk for the rest of the flight.

Boeing also reported a problem with the cooling of the spacecraft, although it added that temperatures on the spacecraft remained stable. Other key systems, including navigation, power and communications, worked well, the company’s statement said.

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