Boeing Starliner returns home

First flown, reusable orbital crew capsule in history

The newly returned Starliner spacecraft has come home to the Boeing Factory at NASA Kennedy Space Center. The spacecraft landed on White Sands Missile Range on December 22 and is now getting prepped for refurbishment, before its next mission.

Starliner from OFT
Starliner back at home in Boeing’s factory at NASA Kennedy Space Center, FL | image credit: Boeing

Although the spacecraft didn’t dock with the International Space Station, Boeing and NASA still preformed tests on Starliner’s systems while in orbit.

In general, plan for post-flight processing of the spacecraft is as follows:

  • Thorough external inspection
  • Hatch opening and visual verification the seal is in good shape and will keep pressure integrity and people safe as the telemetry data indicates
  • Interior inspection and verification the capsule is as clean as the telemetry data would indicate
  • Removal of cover panels and some key components across systems including avionics, propulsion and life support, detailed inspection and verification of those key components after first flight
  • Detailed inspection of chutes, rigging and airbags with emphasis on unexpected chafing and wear-and-tear
  • Assessment of how heat loading during ascent and entry affected docking system and capsule sidewalls, will compare results against pre-flight thermal models
  • Transition to standard post-flight refurbishment and pre-flight testing
Crews working on lowering Starliner
Teams lower Starliner for preparations of assessment from flight | image credit: Boeing

Currently, technicians also continue to prep another Starliner crew and service module for the next flight. Which is currently in the final assembly and processing phases.  Starliner engineers and analysts are working on compiling and understanding the collected data from the Orbital Flight Test (OFT).They are working with NASA to review and make decisions on what is learned. Initial results from external inspections and thermal assessments will be provided as early as this week.

An independent Boeing/NASA team has now been formed. They are reviewing the software anomaly to determine root cause and recommend corrective actions from it’s maiden spaceflight.¬†Also, individual teams are currently evaluating data and conducting system-by-system reviews. This is also a normal part of the post-flight test process.¬† Boeing teams now have access to and are currently compiling results from the last of the data recorded during flight.

P.S. Mike Mongo‘s apple seeds are in there.

Jon Van Horne
Jon Van Horne

He began his career in media as a multimedia designer and developer in Montreal, Quebec. He developed a passion for media during his job in Photography and Video at a Montreal media content company. Other passions in media, photography/videography and soon going back to school in engineering.

reference: Boeing