Three years after its failed test, the Boeing capsule has achieved the milestone and hopes to be certified by NASA to send astronauts into space.
Boeing ‘s Starliner capsule has docked with the International Space Station ( ISS ) , following a key unmanned test flight to restore the US aerospace giant’s reputation after a series of failures.
Docking took place at 00:28 GMT on Saturday, more than an hour later than originally planned due to final checks during maneuvers.
Astronauts aboard the ISS and the control room in Houston closely monitored the docking. The capsule first stabilized about 250 yards (about 230 meters) from the station. Then, after a slight advance, he backed away to show that he could do so if necessary.
Finally, after a new controlled stop, although longer than expected at 10 meters from the ISS , the delicate final maneuver began. She approached slowly, until making contact.
“The Starliner spacecraft successfully completes its historic first docking with the International Space Station , opening a new route to the orbiting laboratory for crews,” said a commentator on the US space agency’s ( NASA ) live stream .
The hatch of the capsule, which carries about 230 kilos of supplies for the ISS , was not opened until Saturday.
Starliner must remain attached to the ISS for five days, before returning to Earth to land in the desert of the US state of New Mexico, at the White Sands base.
Mission success is key to repairing Boeing ‘s tarnished reputation after a first failure in 2019 .
On that occasion, the attempt to dock with the ISS failed due to software errors, which involved burning too much fuel to reach its destination and even the possibility of destroying the ship during its re-entry.
A second attempt was scheduled for August last year, but was delayed from the launch pad to fix a valve problem, and the capsule had to be returned to the factory.
NASA is seeking to certify Starliner as a second “taxi” service for astronauts to the ISS , a role already fulfilled by Elon Musk’s SpaceX since the 2020 success of its test mission with its Dragon capsule.
The Staliner capsule took off on Thursday night from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida (southeastern United States).
Its sole passenger is a dummy named Rosie the Rocketeer – a pun on the star of the US World War II recruiting drive, Rosie the Riveter – whose job it is to collect flight sensor data on what should experience humans.
The spacecraft followed the correct trajectory, but had problems with two of the 12 thrusters used for the maneuver. However, the anomaly, which is being investigated by the agency’s engineers, should not affect the mission, NASA spokesmen said at a post-launch press conference.
One of Starliner ‘s 12 orbital maneuvering and attitude control (OMAC) thrusters failed after one second, at which point a second thruster kicked in, but also shut down after 25 seconds.
The ship’s software then activated a third thruster, which completed the necessary combustion.
The OMAC thrusters will be used to bring the capsule closer to the ISS and to help pull the spacecraft out of orbit at the end of the mission.
NASA signed contracts in 2014 with fixed amounts of 4.2 billion dollars for Boeing and 2.6 billion for SpaceX, when the United States depended on Russian Soyuz rockets to reach the ISS , after the closure of its space shuttle program .
Boeing , with its centuries-old history, was considered by many to be a safe bet against the virtually inexperienced SpaceX.
But Musk’s company recently sent its fourth routine crew to the ISS , while Boeing ‘s development delays have cost the company hundreds of millions of dollars. (AFP)