Boeing’s Starliner capsule lands in White Sands, New Mexico on May 25, 2022 to complete the OFT-2 mission.
Starliner landed at the US Army’s White Sands Missile Range, after leaving the International Space Station earlier in the day, concluding the six-day Orbital Flight Test 2 or OFT-2 mission.
The mission completed one of its most important test objectives, reaching the ISS and docking successfully. OFT-2 marks a fundamental development milestone in Boeing’s development of the Starliner, which has encountered several obstacles and delays in the past three years.
Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft is seen before docking at the International Space Station on May 20, 2022 during the unmanned OFT-2 mission.
Boeing developed its Starliner spacecraft under NASA’s Commercial Crew program, having won nearly $ 5 billion in contracts to build the capsule. The company competes under the counter program by Elon Musk SpaceX, which has completed development of its Crew Dragon spacecraft and is now on its fourth operational human spaceflight for NASA.
The aerospace giant was once considered on par with SpaceX in NASA’s astronaut launch race. Yet the delays in Starliner development have steadily set Boeing back, both in timing and in finances. Due to the fixed-price nature of its contract with NASA, Boeing has absorbed the cost of the additional work on the capsule and has spent $ 595 million so far.
Boeing’s next Starliner mission is expected to be the Crew Flight Test, or CFT, which will fly the first astronauts aboard the capsule. However, the company is considering whether to redesign the Aerojet RocketdynePropulsion valves made on the Starliner, which did not function properly during the company’s first attempt to launch the OFT-2 mission in August 2021.