Boeing's faulty Starliner capsule makes a bull's-eye landing, might not be astronaut-ready just yet

The 'perfect' landing came after the astronaut capsule failed to meet one of its core objectives: docking to the space station.


Boeing Co’s Starliner astronaut spacecraft made a "bull’s-eye" landing in the New Mexico desert on Sunday, a successful ending to a crewless test mission that two days earlier failed to reach the orbit needed to dock with the International Space Station.

The 7.58 am ET (6.28 pm IST) landing at the White Sands desert capped a turbulent 48 hours for Boeing’s botched milestone test of an astronaut capsule that is designed to help NASA regain its human spaceflight capabilities.

A software problem on Friday caused the capsule to fail to attain the orbit needed to rendezvous with the space station, another unwelcome engineering black eye for Boeing in a year that has seen corporate crisis over the grounding of its 737 MAX jetliner following two fatal crashes of the aircraft.

 Boeings faulty Starliner capsule makes a bulls-eye landing, might not be astronaut-ready just yet

A protective tent is used to cover the Boeing CST-100 Starliner after its descent by parachute following an Orbital Flight Test for NASA’s Commercial Crew programs. Image: NASA

Officials from the aerospace company and NASA breathed sighs of relief following the landing, a highly challenging feat.

"Today it couldn’t really have gone any better," Boeing space chief executive Jim Chilton told reporters on Sunday, adding that experts would need weeks to analyze the data from this mission before determining if Boeing could move forward with its plan to send a crewed mission on the craft in 2020.

The landing, which tested the capsule’s difficult reentry into the atmosphere and parachute deployment, will yield the mission’s most valuable test data after it failed to meet one of its core objectives of docking to the space station.

Also read: Boeing's CST-100 Starliner capsule fails key objective in its maiden test flight to the space station

Also read: Boeing's Starliner capsule to sport an 'aeroskirt' in a key test flight to the space station on 20 Dec

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