Boeing’s Starliner capsule is set to undock from the International Space Station tomorrow on May 25 and will make its return to Earth, landing in the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. NASA has made arrangements to broadcast the upcoming return activities live for the spacecraft. It is said that the spacecraft is scheduled to undock from the space station at 2:36pm ET on Wednesday (12:06am Thursday in India). Starliner was launched on May 19 from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, beginning the Orbital Flight Test-2 mission, and successfully docked with the ISS a day later.
Starliner docked next to SpaceX’s Dragon ship on the space station, making it the first time NASA’s two commercial crew contractors had capsules attached to the space station. There were no astronauts aboard Starliner, which is designed to ferry people to and from the ISS. However, Starliner’s unscrewed spacecraft recently carried about 800 pounds cargo to the space station. Once NASA certifies the spacecraft, it is expected to carry up to four crew members.
Though the Starliner programme is running years behind schedule, its return to Earth after successful docking on the ISS is a good advance. NASA has lined up several events in the run-up to the touchdown of the spacecraft in New Mexico.
The major events are as follows:
May 24, Tuesday
— 12:55pm ET (10:25pm IST) – Starliner farewell ceremony
— 1:30pm ET (11:00pm IST) – Hatch closure coverage begins
May 25, Wednesday
— 2pm ET (11:30pm IST) – TV coverage begins for undocking
— 5:45pm ET (3:15am IST on Thursday) – Coverage begins for landing in the western US
NASA will also hold a press conference on NASA TV from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston after the touchdown.
Previously, Boeing scheduled a 2019 test flight — known as OFT-1 — but it was cut short due to software problems, preventing the spacecraft from reaching the space station. Another attempt in August last year was also called off due to a technical issue.