That probably wasn't supposed to happen.
After years of setbacks, Boeing is finally rolling out its Starliner spacecraft to the launchpad today for its second attempt to rendezvous with the International Space Station.
Doing no favors for the spacecraft’s reputation for jankiness, it ran into yet another mishap along the way. While strapped to the back of a large truck, a piece of the capsule’s window appeared to pop off, tumbling down to the asphalt, as spotted in footage shared by CBS space news reporter William Harwood.
OFT-2: During the rollover to pad 41, as the Starliner neared the Vehicle Assembly Building, a protective window cover somehow fell off the capsule and tumbled to the road; after a brief stop to determine what had happened, the trip continued pic.twitter.com/GAS6VwxYf5
— William Harwood (@cbs_spacenews) May 4, 2022
The procession briefly stopped to check for damage before resuming its journey to Space Launch Complex 41 in Cape Canaveral, Florida.
Boeing later confirmed to Harwood that it was a protective window cover that had fallen off the capsule.
All told, it doesn’t sound like a terribly serious issue, but the optics are terrible considering what Boeing has been through with the development of Starliner, its competitor to SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule.
The capsule’s second uncrewed test flight, originally slated for launch in August 2021, has been delayed several times, with engineers struggling with a number of issues, including Florida’s humidity corroding valves.
To prepare for said mission, the Starliner capsule is now getting ready to be stacked atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket for its second attempt to make it into orbit and dock with the station.
Meanwhile, SpaceX has been running laps around its competition. Both the Elon Musk-led company and Boeing have been developing space capsules as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, but only the former has managed to successfully deliver astronauts and cargo to the ISS.
For now, all we can do is hope that Boeing has done its homework this time around — and that the long awaited spacecraft can finally move on from the development hell it’s been stuck in for years now.
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