The unmanned test mission of Boeing’s new astronaut capsule, Starliner, which was supposed to dock with the International Space Station after being launched atop an Atlas V rocket into space early on 20 December, had to be scrapped due to a timer error, US space agency NASA announced.
Following a successful launch from Cape Canaveral, the capsule ended up being unable to reach the orbit that would’ve led to its rendezvous with the ISS, with Boeing's space chief executive Jim Chilton saying during a press conference that the plan is now to return the spacecraft back to Earth.
Commenting on this development, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine explained that the timer error resulted in the Starliner burning fuel too soon and thus being unable to reach the needed orbit.
“We did obviously have some challenges today. When the spacecraft separated from the launch vehicle we did not get the orbital insertion burn that we were hoping for,” Bridenstine said.
He also argued that the decision to return the capsule back to earth was “absolutely the right decision for this mission”.
"The challenge here has to do with automation,” Bridenstine remarked, claiming that had the spacecraft been manned, the astronauts would’ve been able to override the automated system which caused said error.