Space station astronauts went to visit Boeing’s Starliner capsule

Deepak Gupta May 23, 2022
Updated 2022/05/23 at 8:32 PM

Boeing followed SpaceX in placing a capsule docked to the International Space Station. Last Saturday, for the first time, this spacecraft managed to leave Earth and reach space, completing half of the mission. The other half will be leaving the ISS and arriving operationally on Earth. The Starliner flight was unmanned, but ISS astronauts took a guided tour to show us what the spacecraft looks like from the inside.

The capsule has a diameter of 4.56 meters which is slightly larger than the Apollo command module and SpaceX Dragon 2, and smaller than the Orion capsule.

ISS astronauts show the Boeing capsule

International Space Station astronauts floated in the Boeing Starliner capsule on Saturday, becoming the first people to enter the orbiting spacecraft less than a day after it docked at the orbiting research complex for the first time.

These ISS dwellers will spend several days testing and unpacking cargo inside the Starliner spacecraft, before it departs and returns to Earth on Wednesday.

NASA astronaut Bob Hines became the first person to enter an orbiting Starliner spacecraft after opening the capsule's forward hatch at 12:04 pm EDT (1604 GMT) Saturday. Two of his crew, NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren and Russian cosmonaut Denis Matveev, joined him inside the spacecraft a few minutes later.

The crew initially wore masks and goggles to protect against potential floating particles inside the Boeing capsule. Protective gear is commonly worn by space station astronauts when first entering a new spacecraft or new module.

After verifying that everything was OK, the security material was removed and they started filming the interior, for everyone on Earth to know this ship.

Welcome to Starliner, for the first time in space

The Starliner spacecraft docked at the port in front of the station's Harmony module at 01:28 am last Saturday morning (mainland Portugal time). The capsule completed automated docking after holding position near the station for longer than planned, giving mission control time to resolve an issue with its docking mechanism.

Hines, Lindgren, and crewmates Jessica Watkins and Samantha Cristoforetti flew to the International Space Station last month in a SpaceX Dragon spacecraft.

Its launch and docking marked the fourth operational flight of the SpaceX crew capsule carrying astronauts to the space station, and the seventh global flight by the Dragon crew, including a test flight in 2020 and two fully commercial human spaceflight missions.

The Starliner program, however, takes a few years behind on SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft. A 2019 unmanned test flight was aborted due to software issues, and the spacecraft returned to Earth without docking with the space station.

Boeing and NASA have agreed to launch a second unmanned demonstration mission - called Orbital Flight Test-2 - but the launch has been delayed since last August due to problems with valves in the spacecraft's propulsion system.

THE Boeing had to pay out 595 million dollars in accounting charges to pay for the OFT-2 mission and associated delays.

The OFT-2 mission finally took off on Thursday, May 19, from Cape Canaveral, aboard a rocket from the United Launch Alliance Atlas 5. NASA and Boeing managers approved the Starliner spacecraft for approach to the space station on Friday, following various technical issues with thrusters and the capsule's cooling system.

Spacecraft ready to receive multi-million contracts from NASA

NASA awarded SpaceX and Boeing multi-million contracts in 2014 to complete the design and development of the Dragon and Starliner vehicles. In total, NASA has signed commercial crew contracts with Boeing valued at more than $5.1 billion and $3.1 billion in contracts covering similar work with SpaceX.

NASA's Commercial Crew Program was created to provide US astronaut independent access to the space station following the withdrawal of the space shuttle. For nine years after the shuttle's last flight, NASA astronauts rode the Russian Soyuz spacecraft to and from the space station.

In 2014, NASA awarded commercial crew contracts, and this is the day they envisioned, where we have three human-grade vehicles docked at the space station right now. So we have the Soyuz docked in the MLM (Multipurpose Laboratory Module), and then we have a Dragon right above us and the Starliner right behind us.

Said said Hines.

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