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Boeing sends first crew capsule to ISS this week

December 18, 2019
 In this file photo taken on October 23, 2018 a mockup of the Boeing Starliner spacecraft is seen inside the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility during a media preview for an upcoming public open house at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.  -AFP
In this file photo taken on October 23, 2018 a mockup of the Boeing Starliner spacecraft is seen inside the Space Vehicle Mockup Facility during a media preview for an upcoming public open house at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas. -AFP

WASHINGTON - Boeing is all set to launch its Starliner spacecraft for the first time to the International Space Station at the end of this week, a key mission as NASA looks to resume crewed flight by 2020.

This time around its sole passenger will be bandana-clad dummy Rosie, named after Rosie the Riveter, a campaign icon used to recruit women to munitions factory jobs during World War II.

"If we're blessed with great weather, I look forward to a mission early Friday morning, and then coming to the International Space Station on Saturday," Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program told reporters at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

"The spacecraft is in really good shape," added John Mulholland, vice president and program manager of the Boeing Commercial Crew Program.

The US has relied on Russia to transport its crews to the ISS since the end of the Space Shuttle program in 2011, but in 2014 hired Boeing and SpaceX under multi-billion dollar contracts, with the two companies already two years behind schedule.

NASA is now targeting next year to start the flights, as long as the tests are completed without a hitch.

The mission that starts Friday will last eight days and serves as a dress rehearsal.

The CST-100 Starliner, to give it its full name, will launch from Cape Canaveral at 6:36 am local time (1136 GMT) on an Atlas V rocket built by the United Launch Alliance, and will reach the station 25 hours later.

Starliner will then remain docked for seven days before detaching and returning home. It will land following a four-hour rapid descent in the New Mexico desert on December 28 at 3:46 am local time (1047 GMT).

SpaceX's capsule, known as Crew Dragon, undertook the same type of mission successfully last March. The main difference is that Crew Dragon lands in the ocean instead of dry land -- but both rely on parachutes to slow their descent.

Unlike in the past, NASA is paying companies for their services rather than owning the hardware, a move decided under former president Barack Obama and meant to save the taxpayer money. -AFP


December 18, 2019
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