Boeing Starliner Commercial Crew Vehicle Fails to Reach Proper Orbit

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft launches from Space Launch Complex 41, Friday, Dec. 20, 2019, at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The uncrewed Orbital Flight Test launched at 6:36 a.m. EST and is Starliner’s maiden mission to the International Space Station for NASA's Commercial Crew Program. The mission will serve as an end-to-end test of the system's capabilities. Photo Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky.

After a successful launch of the Starliner Commercial Crew Vehicle on its maiden flight test, a software problem with the onboard timer resulted in the spacecraft not achieving its intended orbit.

The expected orbital burn did not occur as automated systems kicked in shortly after the spacecraft separated from the launch vehicle. The cause of the faulty timer is being investigated. The spacecraft orbit is being raised but the decision was made not to attempt reaching the International Space Station after more fuel was used than expected in stabilizing the spacecraft orbit.

The Atlas V launch vehicle performed as expected according to ULA’s Tory Bruno. Other than the timer issue, the Starliner spacecraft is operating as expected and useful data is being collected. The plan is to look for the root cause of the problem while the spacecraft is in a stable orbit and as previously planned, to prepare the spacecraft to land at White Sands, though earlier than expected.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine said in a press a conference that lot of things went well and this is why we test. The NASA and Being teams will evaluate all the data to make a decision as to whether the next flight will be crewed with astronauts as was planned.

NASA astronaut Nicole Mann, a Navy test pilot and a member of the first Starliner crew, said if the test spacecraft had been crewed today they would have likely switched to manual control to correct the problem and proceed to the station. 

Launch Replay

About Marc Boucher

Boucher is an entrepreneur, writer, editor & publisher. He is the founder of SpaceQ Media Inc. and CEO and co-founder of SpaceRef Interactive LLC. Boucher has 20+ years working in various roles in the space industry and a total of 30 years as a technology entrepreneur including creating Maple Square, Canada's first internet directory and search engine.

Leave a Reply