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NASA’s Boeing Starliner Spacecraft

  • 04 Aug 2021
  • 5 min read

Why in News

Recently, the launch of Boeing’s uncrewed Starliner Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) has been postponed once again.

  • The spacecraft, which is called the Crew Space Transportation-100 (CST-100), is part of an uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station (ISS).
  • The mission is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Key Points

  • About CST-100:
    • The spacecraft has been designed to accommodate seven passengers or a mix of crew and cargo for missions to low-Earth orbit.
    • For NASA service missions to the ISS, it will carry up to four NASA-sponsored crew members and time-critical scientific research.
      • The Starliner is supposed to carry more than 400 pounds of NASA cargo and crew supplies.
    • The Starliner has an innovative, weldless structure and is reusable up to 10 times with a six-month turnaround time.
  • Purpose:
    • When this test flight takes off, it will check the capabilities of the spacecraft from launch, docking, atmospheric re-entry and a landing at a desert in the US.
    • The spaceflight will also help NASA to ascertain and certify the transportation system to carry astronauts to and from the space station in the future.
  • NASA’s Commercial Crew Program:
    • Its main objective is to make access to space easier in terms of its cost, so that cargo and crew can be easily transported to and from the ISS, enabling greater scientific research.
    • Through this program, NASA plans to lower its costs by sharing them with commercial partners such as Boeing and SpaceX.
    • It is also planning to give the companies incentive to design and build the Commercial Orbital Transportation Services (COTS).
      • COTS was a NASA program, announced in 2006 to coordinate the delivery of crew and cargo to the International Space Station (ISS) by private companies.
    • By encouraging private companies such as Boeing and SpaceX to provide crew transportation services to and from low-Earth orbit, NASA can focus on building spacecraft and rockets meant for deep space exploration missions.
    • Crew-2 mission is the second crew rotation of the SpaceX Crew Dragon and the first with international partners.
      • Crew-2 astronauts joined the members of Expedition 65 (65th long duration expedition to the ISS).
    • In May 2020, NASA’s SpaceX Demo-2 test flight lifted off for the ISS carrying two astronauts.
      • The aim of this test flight was to see if SpaceX capsules could be used on a regular basis to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS.

International Space Station (ISS)

  • It is a habitable artificial satellite - the single largest man-made structure in low earth orbit. Its first component was launched into orbit in 1998.
  • It circles the Earth in roughly 92 minutes and completes 15.5 orbits per day.
  • The ISS programme is a joint project between five participating space agencies: NASA (United States), Roscosmos (Russia), JAXA (Japan), ESA (Europe), and CSA (Canada) but its ownership and use has been established by intergovernmental treaties and agreements.
  • It serves as a microgravity and space environment research laboratory in which crew members conduct experiments in biology, human biology, physics, astronomy, meteorology, and other fields.
  • Continuous presence at ISS has resulted in the longest continuous human presence in low earth orbit.
  • It is expected to operate until 2030.
  • Recently, the Russian Space Agency Roscosmos launched its biggest space laboratory named Nauka to the International Space Station (ISS).

Source: IE

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