Boeing’s Starliner returns from space station

NASA and Boeing landed the CST-100 Starliner in New Mexico on Wednesday.

The landing marked the completion of the spacecraft’s unmanned Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) to the International Space Station (ISS).

The capsule parachuted down to Earth about four hours after departing the orbiting laboratory.

NASA said the Boeing Starliner mission was a “critical step in validating the performance of Boeing’s systems” and that OFT-2 “brings the nation a significant step closer to having two unique human transportation systems to carry astronauts to and from the space station from US ground.”

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Elon Musk’s SpaceX is already the established leader, launching astronauts — and tourists — into space since 2020.

“NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and our industry partner, Boeing, today took 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 Administrator Bill Nelson said in a statement.

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“The OFT-2 mission represents the power of collaboration, which allows us to innovate for the benefit of humanity and inspire the world through discovery. This golden era of spaceflight wouldn’t be possible without the thousands of individuals who persevered and poured their passion into this great achievement,” he added.

“I am incredibly proud of the dedication and perseverance shown by the NASA, Boeing and ULA team culminating in the successful completion of Starliner’s second Orbital Flight Test from start to finish,” Steve Stich, the manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said in a statements. “Throughout this process, Starliner has provided a tremendous amount of valuable data, which we’re continuing to assess in our effort to bring the spacecraft online and fully operational for crew flights to the space station as soon as it is safe to do so. “

The flight test began on May 19. Starliner launched on the ULA Atlas V rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. It docked to the ISS on Friday, after which astronauts there tested Starliner’s communication and computer systems and uploaded supplies.

Boeing scrapped its first attempt to reach the space station in 2019 after software errors. The problem was fixed last summer, but corroded valves stymied a second attempt.

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After NASA and Boeing review data from this test flight, teams will continue plans for Starliner and its next mission, the Crew Flight Test to the space station.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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