A test dummy named Rosie the Rocketeer — after Rosie the Riveter from World War II — rode in the commander’s seat. Also returning were holiday presents, clothes and food that should have been delivered to the space station crew.
The capsule’s first trip to space began with a smooth rocket ride from Cape Canaveral on Friday. But barely a half hour into the flight, it failed to fire its thrusters to give chase to the space station and ended up in the wrong orbit.
There were no parachute problems this time. Last month, only two parachutes deployed during an atmospheric test because workers failed to connect a pin in the rigging.
NASA is uncertain whether it will demand another test flight from Boeing — to include a space station visit — before putting its astronauts on board. Boeing had been shooting for its first astronaut mission in the first half of 2020. This capsule is supposed to be recycled for the second flight with crew; each Starliner is built to fly in space 10 times.
Despite its own setbacks, SpaceX remains in the lead in NASA’s commercial crew program.
SpaceX’s Dragon crew capsule successfully completed its first orbital demo last March. While the flight to the space station went well, the capsule exploded a month later on a test stand at Cape Canaveral.
If a launch abort test goes well next month, SpaceX could start launching NASA astronauts by spring and end a nearly nine-year gap in flying people from Cape Canaveral.
As its space shuttle program was winding down, NASA looked to private industry to take over cargo and crew deliveries to the space station. SpaceX kicked off supply runs in 2012. Two years later, NASA hired SpaceX and Boeing to ferry astronauts to the orbiting lab.
SpaceX got $2.6 billion under NASA’s commercial crew program, while Boeing received more than $4 billion.