Boeing on Friday launched its new Starliner capsule on an unmanned test to the International Space Station, but the spacecraft is “not in its planned orbit” putting at risk its ability to get to the station.
The CST-100 Starliner astronaut capsule successfully launched on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 6:36am ET near Cape Canaveral, Florida and was supposed to reach the ISS on Saturday. However, it was reported to be out of position about 50 minutes after launch.
Boeing Space tweeted: “Starliner has an off-nominal insertion, but we have spacecraft control. The guidance and control team is assessing their next manoeuvre.”
The Starliner astronaut capsule is in “stable orbit” said Jim Bridenstine, Nasa administrator. He added: “The burn needed for a rendezvous with the ISS did not happen. Working the issue.”
A spokesperson for Boeing later said the company and the US space agency are “working together to review options for the test and mission opportunities available while the Starliner remains in orbit”.
Nasa on its website said astronauts will use the Boeing Starliner and the SpaceX Crew Dragon for transportation to the ISS beginning 2020, “ending sole reliance on the Russian Soyuz vehicle for transportation, and returning human launch capabilities to US soil once again”.
The Starliner is carrying about 600 pounds of crew supplies and equipment to the space station and is expected to return some research samples to Earth with a parachute-assisted landing in New Mexico on December 28.
The hitch comes at a difficult time for the Chicago-based company, which said this week it would temporarily halt production of its 737 Max jets that were involved in two fatal crashes.
Boeing and Nasa will hold a post-launch press conference at 9:30am ET.
Boeing shares, which are up a little more than 3 per cent so far this year, were little changed in pre-market trade.