The Starliner’s maiden voyage

CST-100 StarlinerIn development since 2010, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner space vehicle lifts off atop an Atlas V rocket on its first flight, scheduled to take it to the International Space Station. A software and sensor mishap after second stage separation results in the vehicle putting itself into an orbit unable to reach the station, after burning enough fuel to make a major orbital correction impossible. Boeing and NASA settle on an alternate flight plan to allow for other engineering tests in orbit before the vehicle’s planned return to Earth on land a few days later. There is no crew aboard for this first flight, though Boeing contends that astronauts aboard might have been able to override the engineering problems that resulted in the incorrect orbital insertion.