We now know what spaceflight looks like from Boeing’s new astronaut taxi.
Fresh footage from Boeing’s uncrewed test flight of Starliner in May show several views of the spacecraft coming in for a landing at the end of Orbital Test Flight-2, which flew to the International Space Station and back.
Up to four cameras of Starliner’s final flight minutes on May 25 play simultaneously in the video, which is uploaded on YouTube (opens in new tab).
An interior view starring a mannequin, a view out the window, and two ground cameras supply multiple perspectives to provide engineers data about the landing effort in the New Mexico desert.
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“Starliner lands in the desert rather than splashing down in the ocean, which is a first for an orbital capsule built in the United States,” Boeing officials wrote in a caption to the YouTube video, contrasting its design to competitor SpaceX that uses ocean landings.
“Its [Starliner’s] proven parachute and airbag systems provide a soft landing on the sand, reducing the load on the crew,” Boeing continued. “Without sea state considerations, like wave height, swells, currents and surface winds, passengers are able to step right out of the spacecraft onto dry land.”
The engineering information will be crucial to make sure that Starliner is ready for new astronaut missions. Boeing and NASA together are working through the data from the test flight to see how well the company did in meeting the objectives.
This process is expected to complete in the coming months, and Boeing hopes to launch its first crewed space mission in February 2023, which is a delay of three months due to addressing some issues in the test flight, according to past statements from Boeing and NASA.
Related: The science and cargo of Boeing’s OFT-2 Starliner test flight to space station
Boeing has a commercial crew agreement with NASA to launch at least six missions (opens in new tab) to the orbiting complex through NASA’s expected end of the international partnership in 2030. That said, other partners have not yet signed on for an extension to the ISS framework, which currently expires in 2024. (Russia plans to leave after 2024 to build its own space station.)
The other supplier of commercial crew flights, SpaceX, has been sending astronauts to the ISS since 2020. NASA recently awarded SpaceX more ISS flights, saying that right now, the Hawthorne, California-based company is the only one rated to send astronauts on orbital space missions from American soil.
A selection of crewed space flights still take place from Russia, which supplies Soyuz flights to the ISS. That said, NASA is pursuing most of its space missions independently, especially in the wake of Russia’s internationally condemned invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. The countries have said repeatedly that operations between the United States and Russia remain normal when it comes to human spaceflight, even as other space agreements were torn up.