Boeing's Starliner spacecraft faces another perilous test: getting back to Earth

Rosie the Astronaut is ready to fly with Boeing’s Starliner to Space Station

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The uncrewed test flight is a crucial step in preparation for next year's launch, which will carry astronauts for the first time.

"When that (fuel) got burnt it looked like we weren't gonna be able to go ahead and rendezvous with the International Space Station", Bridenstine said at a news conference.

The capsule was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 6:36 a.m. without any problems.

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US aircraft giant Boeing said Saturday its Starliner spacecraft will return to Earth on Sunday morning after it went off course in orbit and scrapped the plan to dock with the International Space Station (ISS).

Boeing's Starliner astronaut taxi suffered an anomaly today (Dec. 20) during its flight to the International Space Station during the Orbital Flight Test (OFT) mission. But officials ultimately decided that the capsule couldn't climb high enough to reach the space station, so it would have to be brought back to Earth early. NASA was, as a result, forced to turn to Russia's Soyuz spacecraft, an alternative that costs the agency $86 million a seat (as of 2019). The Commercial Crew Program is supporting the development of crewed spacecraft from Boeing and SpaceX that will free NASA from reliance on Russian Federation.

Boeing and SpaceX are already more than two years behind schedule getting USA astronauts back in space.

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Bridenstine said at a press briefing aired by NASA that the spaceship was "healthy" and Boeing teams were working to accomplish as many mission objectives as possible before the landing.

A joint news conference will be held at 9 am Eastern on NASA TV say Boeing to give an update on the latest developments surrounding this issue. The test launch of the vehicle without a crew was flawless. "We are going to launch American astronauts, on American rockets, from American soil for the first time since the retirement of the space shuttles".

"The challenge here has to do with automation", he said of the unmanned craft, adding that if astronauts had been on board they would have been able to override the automated system that caused the timer error. It was up to the Boeing spacecraft to burn its engines to enter orbit and intercept the space station. "The vehicle was not on the right timer, we don't know why it wasn't".

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