By Eric M. Johnson
SEATTLE, Aug. 3 (Reuters) – Boeing Co’s CST-100 Starliner is about to take off from Cape Canaveral, Florida on Tuesday for the International Space Station as part of a crucial test flight after a failed almost catastrophic when it debuted in 2019.
The unmanned mission scheduled for Tuesday is the forerunner of a closely watched crewed flight that could be carried out before the end of the year. It is also a key lawsuit for the US aerospace giant after back-to-back crises – a pandemic that crushed demand for new aircraft and a safety scandal caused by two fatal 737 MAX crashes – that have affected to Boeing’s finances and technical reputation.
If all goes according to plan, the Starliner capsule laden with supplies will lift off atop an Atlas V rocket piloted by United Launch Alliance, a partnership between Boeing and Lockheed Martin Corp, at 1:20 p.m. EDT (5:20 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 41 in the Cape Canaveral Space Station.
The launch was scheduled for last Friday https://www.reuters.com/lifestyle/science/space-station-mishap-prompts-nasa-postpone-launch-boeing-starliner-2021-07-29, but was postponed by La NASA after the space station was briefly out of control with seven crew members on board, an incident caused by the inadvertent re-ignition of jet thrusters on a newly docked Russian service module. The Russian space agency blamed a software glitch.
Atlas V’s two Rocketdyne RL10A-4-2 Aerojet engines are ready to fire Starliner on a 113 mile (98 nautical mile / 181 km) suborbital path before the capsule separates and flies on its own towards the sea. space station within approximately 24 hours of overall travel.
The Starliner capsule showcased billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk’s Boeing-SpaceX efforts to be the first to return NASA astronauts to the space station from US soil in nearly a decade.
But a series of software glitches during the first launch in December 2019 resulted in its failure to dock at the orbital lab outpost. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon has launched three manned space station missions since 2020, with a fourth scheduled for Oct. 31, according to NASA.
Boeing spent a year and a half correcting issues reported in NASA reviews, as part of the US space agency’s strategy to secure access to the sprawling international research satellite some 400 km above of the earth.
NASA in 2014 awarded contracts to Boeing and SpaceX to build their own capsules that could transport American astronauts to the space station in a bid to wean the United States from its dependence on Russian Soyuz vehicles for travel. in space after the NASA space shuttle program ended in 2011.
If all goes well, Boeing will bring the capsule home on August 9 and then attempt the crewed follow-up mission which the company says will take place in December at the earliest.
(Reporting by Eric M. Johnson in Seattle, editing by Will Dunham)