Boeing's CST-100 Starliner space capsule returned to Earth last Sunday, December 22, after it failed to dock with the International Space Station (ISS). Although the test did not go as planned, the vehicle landed safely in the desert of New Mexico in the United States. The landing is for the US Space Agency a sign that future manned missions could be successful on their return to Earth.
The capsule was launched on December 20 by the Atlas V rocket, however, after separation, the thrusters were not activated. The spacecraft entered a different trajectory than planned, failing to reach the necessary altitude to reach the ISS.
At issue was an anomaly in their countdown system, said Jim Bridenstine, NASA director, on Twitter. In a press conference, the official explained that the engineers in charge of the mission control tried to solve the anomaly manually, sending codes for its correction. Not only did the mistake cause the Starliner system to assume that the necessary operations had already been performed to get it on the right track, it also caused more than expected fuel consumption, thus making it impossible to contact the ISS.
Although the capsule failed to dock, NASA indicates that the mission was able to complete some of its objectives, including the successful launch of the Atlas V rocket and testing communications with Starliner. “That's why we carry out this kind of testing: to learn and improve our systems,” explained Jim Bridenstine. in press release.
For now, before moving on with any further testing, Boing and NASA will analyze mission data, which could set the course of the schedule for Starline's first manned flight, planned for early 2020.