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Friday, January 22, 2021

Timer malfunction leaves Boeing spaceship adrift

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Timer malfunction leaves Boeing spaceship adrift
Timer malfunction leaves Boeing spaceship adrift

Boeing's Starliner space capsule won't make it to the International Space Station after a timer malfunction made it burn too much fuel.

Julian Satterthwaite reports.

LAUNCH CONTROLLER SAYING (ENGLISH): "Engine at full thrust.

We have cleared the tower." Boeing's Starliner space capsule blasted off from Cape Canaveral for the International Space Station on Friday (December 20).

It's the first test for a spaceship meant to ferry astronauts into orbit.

But it's already looking like a fresh headache for Boeing and NASA.

They say the rocket failed to reach its planned orbit, but is in a stable condition.

NASA administrator Jim Bridenstine spoke at a post-launch news conference: NASA ADMINSTRATOR JIM BRIDENSTINE, SAYING (ENGLISH): "It appears as though the mission elapsed timing system had an error in it and that anomaly resulted in the vehicle believing that the time was different than it actually was." The timing error made the capsule fire its engines at the wrong time, using up fuel.

Instead of reaching the space station, it will return to Earth on Sunday (December 22).

No humans are on board, so no one's in danger.

But it's the last thing NASA and Boeing need.

The agency hasn't had a way to take astronauts into space since the retirement of the space shuttle fleet in 2011.

Instead it's been hitching lifts on Russian rockets.

And Boeing badly needs a PR win after a year of horrible publicity over its grounded 737 MAX airliner.

Problems with the Starliner could also open the door to a rival capsule -- the Crew Dragon, made by Elon Musk's SpaceX.

Though it too has faced repeated delays.

Now any problems with Friday's launch may mean crewed flights are yet again pushed back.

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