Four hours after Boeing's Starliner spacecraft detached from the International Space Station (ISS) on Wednesday, the capsule safely returned to Earth, landing in the New Mexican desert.
The parachute-assisted landing occurred at 1849 ET in the desert of White Sands Space Harbor, New Mexico. Its return marks a significant milestone for Boeing after a failed test flight in 2019.
TOUCHDOWN! Starliner OFT-2 completes a full test flight to the ISS and back with a landing at White Stands.
— Chris Bergin – NSF (@NASASpaceflight) May 25, 2022
Starliner was uncrewed when it launched from Canaveral Space Force Base in Florida last week. It delivered 800 pounds of cargo to the ISS and had "Rosie the Rocketeer," a mannequin outfitted with sensors to monitor the cabin environment that astronauts will experience during future flights.
NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said the Starliner mission is a "major and successful step on the journey to enabling more human spaceflight missions to the International Space Station on American spacecraft from American soil."
NASA outlined that Starliner met all planned test objectives that would soon pave the way for commercial flights.
- Starliner launch and normal trajectory to orbital insertion
- Launch of United Launch Alliance's (ULA) Atlas V and dual-engine Centaur second stage
- Ascent abort emergency detection system validation
- Starliner separation from the Atlas V rocket
- Approach, rendezvous, and docking with International Space Station
- Starliner hatch opening and closing, astronaut ingress, and quiescent mode
- Crew habitability and internal interface evaluation
- Starliner undocking and departure from space station
- Starliner deorbit, and crew module separation from service module
- Starliner descent and atmospheric entry with aero-deceleration system
- Precision targeted landing and recovery
NASA's commercial crew program manager Steve Stich said Starliner made a "picture-perfect landing" and "meet all mission objectives."
Steve Stich, NASA’s commercial crew program manager, says Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft made a “picture perfect landing” after a test flight that “met all the mission objectives.”
Watch the post-mission press conference: https://t.co/TcKCTaaxGr
— Spaceflight Now (@SpaceflightNow) May 26, 2022
Boeing's Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon will be a human spaceflight program redundancy program for the space agency. If one spacecraft encountered issues, the agency will lean on the other for upcoming missions. Also, this marks a time when the West has become less reliant on Russia for space operations.