Houston, We Have Mixed Messages

Boeing’s Starliner Spacecraft Disappoints in Key Test

by Eliza Carter

Not a good look for Boeing... NurPhoto / Getty
NurPhoto / Getty

Yesterday, Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft veered off course to disappoint during a key flight test for NASA.

What happened: Early Friday morning, Starliner lifted off from an Atlas V rocket seemingly without a hitch. But when the main engine was supposed to rev up…it didn’t, throwing the spacecraft off course. Blame it on Starliner’s autonomous flight-control system misfiring.

  • NASA has given Boeing nearly $5 billion to develop Starliner as an astronaut ferry (though none were on board yesterday).
  • The spacecraft was meant to dock at the International Space Station today and stay for a week. But its deviation from the planned orbit kept it from doing so.

Boeing said the mission partially course-corrected and will still be able to test some of Starliner’s systems. If astronauts had been on Starliner, both NASA and Boeing said they believe they’d still be safe.

But…this is another bad look for Boeing, which is still licking its 737 Max wounds. Earlier this month, it announced plans to suspend production of the aircraft.

Looking ahead…Starliner will likely try to land in New Mexico tomorrow to regroup.

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