Starliner Docks With International Space Station

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The Boeing Starliner capsule docked with the International Space Station at 1:34 p.m. EDT this afternoon, joining the SpaceX Dragon capsule “Endeavor,” marking the first time two capsules have docked with the orbiting space station. The Starliner lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida yesterday.

A planned earlier docking around 10:30 a.m. was delayed by problems with the reaction control system (RCS) engines that are used to maneuver the capsule. NASA and Boeing had to troubleshoot five of the 28 RCS jets before the docking could proceed. There is speculation that helium leaks detected earlier in the mission might have been the cause of the RCS issues.

Four of the five thrusters were brought back online by astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams working with flight controllers. After the docking was secured, Wilmore and Williams boarded the space station for a reunion with members of the crew. The occasion marks the third visit to the space station for each astronaut and the first crewed flight of the Starliner.

Once seen as a direct competitor to the SpaceX Dragon capsule, the Starliner is now viewed as a backup shuttle for resupplying and recrewing the space station. NASA’s plans call for the two spacecraft to alternate missions to the space station every six months, with each vehicle making one trip per year.

Mark Phelps
Mark Phelps is a senior editor at AVweb. He is an instrument rated private pilot and former owner of a Grumman American AA1B and a V-tail Bonanza.

37 COMMENTS

    • Only to be erased by the ongoing provisioning of the bombs raining on innocent civilians in Gaza.

      • Why, on earth, a BS comment like that on this forum? Go to the nearest college campus and burn down the President’s office along with the rest of your buddies.

      • Wow, so I guess your son’s graduation was a win but only to be erased by the ongoing provisioning of the bombs raining on innocent civilians in Gaza?

      • Let’s hope it continues and all the terrorists in Gaza are wiped out. I guess if you’re supporting your local terrorist, consequences are coming due.

    • Semi-win. Leaking helium into space, I’m sure the pilots were plenty happy to exit the module.

    • Umm Suni Williams isn’t a man. Pretty sure other astronauts are also not men. So you should correct your comment to “men and women hugging each other,” it will be more credible.
      Don’t forget, the space race brought us the microwave oven! (sigh, guess someone will need to argue with that as well).

      • No; I think it brought us the pen that would write on teflon inside the microwave, while the oven was heating a mug of Tang.

      • FThanks for a well-informed correction delivered with a dash of humor and a nod to historical facts. Congratulations, Eric!

    • Frankly Kent, what this accomplishes is incremental, like progress in any endeavor. As for hugging in space, I’m all for hugging whenever and wherever possible. Or are you threatened by men hugging, in which case, therapy might help you. And there are plenty of authoritative sources that can tell you where that $35T number comes from, and “in the hole” ain’t it.

      But other than that, yours was a useful posting that furthered an intelligent discussion about the latest kilometer-stone in space. Or are you going to insist on it being a “milestone”?

  1. No disrespect intended, but I wouldn’t characterize this as well done. That capsule was troublesome during the entire trip. Big kudos to Suni and Butch for having the guts to ride that up, but I think I’d wait for a Space X urber ride back.

    • Yep. Not a huge success at al. And sorry, this page design make the stupid “Report” link way to easy to hit. I was trying to hit the tiny “reply” link but missed.

  2. Boeing “big bucks for political clout” is the only thing keeping Boeing in this space story. SpaceX does it better faster more innovative and would seem the obvious choice. But politicians will be politicians.

    • Of course politicians will be politicians.
      That’s why when the then president Kennedy put his VP in charge of the space program, LBJ put NASA in Texas near Houston. Same as it ever was.

    • No. Congress and NASA wanted two different companies to develop space capsules. Partly to stimulate the aerospace industry, and also to have a backup in case one is grounded.

  3. Per AJ Foyt’s comment, lore up here in Massachusetts (JFK’s state) is that the NASA Manned Spaceflight Center was supposed to be in Cambridge, pretty ciose to MIT. They had acquired the land and set up the initial planning. When President Kennedy was tragically assassinated, LBJ moved it to Houston. And now there is a DOT installation called the Volpe center on that space, the nicest DOT facility I’ve ever seen.

    But I think this even further validates AJF’s point: politicians be politicians.

  4. For those comparing SpaceX to Boeing, please realize that it has never been a winner-take-all competition between those two companies. The idea was redundency, that’s all. They both need to be reliable and available. Speaking of reliable, I hope those helium-driven thrusters aren’t what keeps the capsule’s heat shield aimed forward upon re-entry.

    • Correct – and that probably would not have happened had it not been for WWII…Sadly, war brings many advancements in technology, including aviation. I would rather my tax money go to peaceful pursuits than to war, but we do not always control what our international competitors thrust upon us, do we?

    • You are correct. British scientists during WWII invented it.

      Fun story: After testing the magnetron in a lab, one scientist reached into his lab coat pocket to get a chocolate bar was carrying. It had liquified. It was then they realized the “By-Product” properties of the waves emitted by Radar. No follow on the story regrading whether the scientist has an offspring.

  5. I’m glad they finally got it off and into space, but I am still frustrated by the nagging little issues that keep popping up with the Starliner. After all, NASA and contractors had the space capsule concept pretty well ironed out with the Apollo missions over a half-century ago. There really isn’t much new about the “new and improved” capsule other than it is bigger and can carry more people.

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