A space capsule built to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) has failed its first test flight, and will now return to Earth without completing its mission.
The capsule, named Starliner, has been built by Boeing, and was successfully launched by NASA from Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket lifted off successfully, and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner separated as expected.
The rocket was supposed to fall in the Pacific Ocean near Australia, while Starliner, after a series of orbital adjustments, was to be on course for docking with the space station.
The Starliner apparently fired its engines at the wrong time and, as a result, entered a wrong orbit.
The faulty thrusting had caused far too much fuel to be burned, and the mission would no longer be pursued.
The failure is likely to push back further NASA’s already delayed and repeatedly postponed attempt at resuming human spaceflight from the United States.
For more than eight years, no human has gone to space from US soil, and NASA has relied on Russia to get its astronauts on the space station.
SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule is scheduled to launch on January 11. It will be a crewless flight, and if it succeeds, SpaceX could be in a position to send astronauts into space in the first half of next year.
International Space Station (ISS)
The International Space Station is a space station in low Earth orbit. The ISS programme is a joint project between five participating space agencies: NASA, Roscosmos, JAXA, ESA, and CSA.
The ISS serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and other fields.
The station is divided into two sections, the Russian Orbital Segment (ROS), which is operated by Russia, and the United States Orbital Segment (USOS), which is shared by many nations.
The ISS is the ninth space station to be inhabited by crews, following the Soviet and later Russian Salyut, Almaz, and Mir stations as well as Skylab from the US.