Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft docks with space station after thruster issues

June 6, 2024
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Two NASA astronauts aboard Boeing’s Starliner capsule arrived at the International Space Station Thursday, successfully docking with the orbiting outpost despite issues with the spacecraft’s thrusters.

NASA confirmed that the spacecraft and its crew, astronauts Butch Wilmore and Sunita Williams, docked with the space station at 1:34 p.m. ET.

“Nice to be attached to the big city in the sky,” Wilmore told mission controllers on the ground.

An earlier docking attempt planned for 12:15 p.m. ET was called off after problems were discovered with five of the 28 thrusters on the lower portion of the Starliner capsule.

Boeing's Starliner capsule docked with the International Space Station at 1:34 p.m. ET on June 6.
Boeing’s Starliner capsule docked with the International Space Station at 1:34 p.m. ET on June 6.NASA

Flight controllers continue to monitor issues with the capsule’s reaction control thrusters, which are used to make fine-tuned changes to the spacecraft’s trajectory, such as when it closes in on the space station. Various tests were able to recover all but one thruster, and mission managers gave the go-ahead to proceed with docking.

The Starliner capsule is designed to dock autonomously with the space station, but Wilmore and Williams can take manual control if needed.

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft is more than 24 hours into its long-awaited inaugural crewed test flight to the space station. The capsule lifted off atop an Atlas V rocket Wednesday from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Now that they have docked, the astronauts will work through a number of tasks before the hatches between the Starliner capsule and the space station are opened at around 3:20 p.m. ET.

The Boeing Starliner capsule prepares to dock with the International Space Station.
The Boeing Starliner capsule prepares to dock with the International Space Station. NASA

The duo will then be greeted by the seven crewmembers already stationed at the ISS: NASA astronauts Michael Barratt, Matt Dominick, Tracy Dyson and Jeanette Epps, and Roscosmos cosmonauts Nikolai Chub, Alexander Grebenkin, and Oleg Kononenko.

Wilmore and Williams are expected to spend about a week at the space station. NASA has said the astronauts and the Starliner capsule could return to Earth on June 14, but the date could change as the mission progresses.

The test flight is designed to demonstrate that the capsule can safely ferry NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. If successful, NASA could authorize Boeing to conduct regular flights to the space station for the agency.



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