Boeing's Starliner spacecraft docks at ISS for 1st time [space news]

Boeing's Starliner spacecraft docks at ISS for 1st time [space news]

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#Boeing's Starliner capsule arrived at the International Space Station Friday night (May 20), notching a huge milestone for the aerospace giant and its quest to fly NASA astronauts to and from orbit.

#Starliner lifted off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on Thursday evening (May 19), kicking off a crucial uncrewed mission to the station called Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT-2). About 22 hours later, Starliner began zeroing in on the ISS, performing a series of fly-arounds, approaches and retreats designed to showcase its rendezvous chops.

And Starliner finally linked up with the station, docking at the forward-facing port of its Harmony node. The Boeing spacecraft and station were sailing about 270 miles above the South Indian Ocean as they met in orbit.

The docking occurred over an hour later than planned. Because NASA and Boeing firstly await better lighting and communications conditions, and then delayed docking to reset the space capsule's NASA Docking System, or NDS, when they detected a small anomaly. That reset worked and Starliner linked up smoothly with its docking port.

It was a monumental moment for Boeing, which signed a contract with #NASA in 2014 to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS using Starliner. Today's docking showed that the capsule can indeed make its way to the orbiting lab.

Mission team said that Starliner aced a series of trials before it began approaching the ISS, including abort maneuvers and a test of its Vision-based, Electro-Optical Sensor Tracking Assembly (VESTA) system, which it used to lock onto the orbiting lab.
And Starliner is now safely at the ISS, where it will stay for four or five days before departing for a touchdown in the western United States. If the capsule can ace its remaining milestones, it may well be cleared to carry NASA astronauts to the station, perhaps before the end of the year.

Materials: NASA, Boeing