Video: Starliner suffers thruster failures as it docks with ISS

Video: Starliner suffers thruster failures as it docks with ISS
Starliner docking with the ISS
Starliner docking with the ISS
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Starliner docking with the ISS
Starliner docking with the ISS

Boeing's Starliner spacecraft can't seem to catch a break. Although it ultimately successfully docked with the International Space Station (ISS), five of the capsule's reaction thrusters malfunctioned, delaying docking by over an hour.

When Starliner lifted off atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket at 10:52 am EDT on June 5, 2024 from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, it looked as though its 14-year jinx may have been left behind. Even though one thruster was suffering a small but persistent helium leak, Wednesday's launch went off without incident as the spacecraft, with NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams aboard, soared into orbit.

Unfortunately, Starliner went back to form as the astronauts carried out a series of maneuver tests as Starliner headed toward the space station for a June 6 rendezvous scheduled for 12:15 pm EDT. According to NASA, five of the craft's thrusters that control its attitude malfunctioned and helium leaks were identified in three of them, including the one found before launch.

Starliner docking

After consulting with Boeing and NASA engineers, the crew managed to recover four of the five thrusters and cut off the leaks by closing all the helium manifolds in the attitude thruster systems. These were only opened again before docking, which was postponed until 1:34 pm EDT while Starliner remained on a parallel course to the ISS. After docking, the manifolds were closed and Starliner's systems were checked again.

There is no indication that the technical problem will affect Wilmore and Williams's stay on the station or their return to Earth next week.

"We’ve had an ideal start for this flight test that our team has been working toward for some time," said Boeing’s Mark Nappi, program manager for Starliner. "We are going to be careful with this spacecraft, making sure we are listening to what its systems are telling us. So far, Starliner is telling us everything we want to hear, but we are not taking anything for granted."

Source: NASA

The comparison between this vast waste of taxpayer money and Musk’s SpaceX Starship says it all.
NASA should get out of the launch business entirely
Seven years overdue, $1.2 billion over budget, and it's still malfunctioning.
Rocky Stefano
@Robt - did it ever occur to you that Elon used his big fat wallet to lure Nasa engineers away because Nasa has been under funded for 40 years? I can't stand hearing lopsided arguments from Musk fanbois
Jon Emmet
Perhaps the astronauts didn't pay for that upgrade on this flight. I hope parachutes weren't an upgrade option as well.
Just let it die as there are far better, lower cost ways to do it. The days of unlimited budgets and delays are over.
Once again, proof that the lowest bid may not always be the best. Then again, the K.I.S.S. technique should be part of all engineering. Thanks for the update David. For most of the quick quip commenters, do you remember Apollo 13. That was a significant malfunction. Has NASA ever been of benefit? Do you use Clean Water? How about Computers? Solar Energy? Anything Freeze Dried? Have radial tires? Sleep on Temper Foam? Use Lithium Batteries? NASA's successes, and many of their failures, have been developed in the consumer market supercharging our economy. Rob't, do you think Elon will give away anything from Starship like NASA did in years past?
@Rocky Stefano - NASA isn't short of funds. It gets $200B every decade - and that it, in fact, a lot of money. It's just shackled as to how it can spend that money because NASA is run by congress. If Congress decides it wants to use NASA to embarress the Russians, you get Apollo. If Congress decides it wants to use NASA as a pork barallel distribution system, you get everything since Apollo, with NASA trying to do as much science around the edges as it can.
1) Freeze drying was invented in 1906 and was used widely in the medical industry by the late 1930s. NASA’s claims that they invented it are bizarre.
2) I grew up in 1960s London, and by then my family had been drinking clean water from the tap / faucet for decades. No idea how NASA managed that as they didn’t exist until 1958.
3) (Electronic) computer development had been underway across the more advanced economies by the early 1940s. NASA utilised the available technology in space flight, but that adaptation is hardly the reason that iPad etc. exists.
4) NASA had nothing to do with the invention of, or progress of lithium iron batteries. It was a long, laborious and expensive process by various private companies and academic research across the globe.
5) Radial tyres were invented by the then globally famous French company of Michelin in 1946. Check the relevant patent archives.
6) NASA used solar panels in space in 1958. They were made by the US Signal Corps, which is / was (not sure) part of the US military so you could make the case that we paid for those.
7) Of your list, only memory foam was directly created as a result of NASA’s existence.

@Rocky Stefano I am always interested to hear counterpoints to any post I make, however, civil discourse is preferred. Thanks