Starliner, SpaceX’s competitor to the ISS, has no right to fail on this launch

SPACE – Failure prohibited. On the night of May 19 to 20, the Starliner capsule will attempt to reach the International Space Station. An empty test flight which is not a walk in the park for the Boeing vehicle, as you can see in the video at the top of this article.

SpaceX’s competitor and its Crew Dragon indeed has a lot to prove. Developed over the past ten years, the project was chosen by NASA alongside Elon Musk’s company to send astronauts to the ISS. But Starliner is accumulating delays.

Boeing/SpaceX, the space race funded by NASA

After several delays, a first test flight took place at the end of December 2019 to the station. Propelled by an Atlas V rocket, the machine was put into orbit…but failed to meet the ISS, due to a faulty computer system.

At Boeing, this particularly painful failure has started a general questioning of the software guiding Starliner: the bug responsible for the test would have been only the tip of an iceberg of vulnerabilities. The American company then announced a general review by NASA of its computer system.

A year and a half and more than half a billion in additional expenses, Starliner is back on the firing line. The capsule was equipped along the way with a brand new propulsion system. If all goes as planned, the capsule will then be all ready for certification allowing it to also send astronauts to the ISS. It will be high time: Crew Dragon, its competitor, has been doing its space taxi job since 2020.

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