NASA says it’s working with Boeing to set up an independent investigation team to review last month’s less-than-perfect maiden flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner space taxi, and is considering whether another uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station will be required.
- The uncrewed Starliner capsule had a successful launch and landing, but missed out on its space station rendezvous due to a software glitch. The glitch threw a mission elapsed timer 11 hours out of sync, resulting in the failure to execute an automated engine firing that was required to put the craft on the right orbital course. Docking with the space station had been one of the contractual requirements for last month’s Orbital Flight Test.
- The joint NASA-Boeing team will look into the timing glitch and any other software issues, come up with corrective actions as needed and deliver its final assessment within two months or so, NASA said today in a news release. In parallel, NASA will take several weeks to review data from the Orbital Flight Test and determine whether another uncrewed flight test will be required before putting astronauts on board. “Although docking was planned, it may not have to be accomplished prior to the crew demonstration,” NASA said.
- SpaceX is also putting its Crew Dragon space taxi through uncrewed tests in preparation for flying astronauts. An in-flight test of the Crew Dragon’s abort system is currently planned for Jan. 18. SpaceX and Boeing both aim to start flying astronauts within the next few months, presenting NASA with the challenge of keeping the spacecraft development effort on track while ensuring astronaut safety.