An examination for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, which was named Calypso

Boeing's CST-100 Starliner Calypso spacecraft during recovery (Photo courtesy Boeing. All rights reserved)
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner Calypso spacecraft during recovery (Photo courtesy Boeing. All rights reserved)

Boeing has announced that its engineers and technicians are conducting an in-depth examination of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, which landed on December 22 after the premature end of its Boe-OFT (Boeing Orbital Flight Test) mission. The exam includes the recovery of all the data recorded by the on-board systems to obtain final answers on the problem that caused an off-nominal orbit insertion about half an hour after launch. After landing at the White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, the name Calypso was proposed by astronaut Sunita Williams and quickly approved, therefore it will be the official name used in the next missions, as the spacecraft is reusable.

After landing on December 22, the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft was recovered and transported to a White Sands Missile Range facility after a preliminary inspection. There it was possible to proceed with the in-depth examination that verifies its status and retrieves all the recorded data, consisting of telemetry data, data on the functioning of life support systems and the dummy nicknamed Rosie and recordings of the on-board cameras.

A huge amount of data was sent to the Houston control center during the Boe-OFT mission but those recorded on board are sometimes more precise and therefore useful to obtain a complete picture of what happened during the flight. Fully understanding the root of the problem that emerged after the launch is a priority but it’s crucial that the on-board systems work in order to decide how to proceed for the next mission.

On the occasion of the CRS-100 Starliner spacecraft’s landing, Boeing and NASA sent some astronauts on the spot. Sunita Williams, who is scheduled to command it on the next mission if they decide to go ahead with a manned flight and its reuse will be approved, was interviewed during the broadcast and proposed the name Calypso. That’s the name of the oceanographic ship used by Jacques-Yves Cousteau during a series of exploration trips in the 1950s and to a veteran of the US Navy and some space trips it seemed an excellent name for the CRS-100 Starliner. The proposal was quickly approved by Boeing executives and supported by NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine.

The first impressions confirm the positive comments that arrived immediately after landing. The CRS-100 Starliner spacecraft showed very few scorching signs from the high temperatures reached during its descent, excellent considering that it was built to be reusable and that it will have to transport humans. In a few days it will be transported to Florida, where it will undergo a further thorough inspection and refurbished for a new flight. The results will be crucial in deciding if the next mission will be with astronauts on board the Calypso.

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