Boeing’s passenger spacecraft, the CST-100 Starliner, on Saturday, 21 May, successfully docked itself to the International Space Station (ISS) for the first time, paving the way for its future flights to potentially bring humans to the orbiting laboratory.

This was the Starliners’ third attempt, on a mission designed to test the end-to-end capabilities of the crew-capable system as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Programme.

The first was in December 2019, which failed due to a series of software glitches. In the second attempt last August, Boeing halted the flight just hours before liftoff, after discovering some propellant valves that weren’t working properly.

NASA tweeted, “The Boeing Space Starliner that just arrived at the International Space Station on a test flight is carrying over 500 lbs (227 kg) of cargo and crew supplies.”

Following certification, NASA missions aboard Starliner will carry up to four crew members to the station, enabling the continued expansion of the crew and increasing the amount of science and research that can be performed aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Starliner is scheduled to depart the space station on Wednesday, 25 May when it will undock and return to Earth, with a desert landing in the western US.

The successful launch and orbital insertion are major milestones for the company’s second uncrewed flight, bringing the US closer to having two independent crew systems flying missions to and from the space station, the other one being Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

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