The most interesting facts about Starliner

On May 6, 2024, the American spacecraft CST-100 Starliner will fly into space. For 14 years, Boeing has been developing it for NASA. It is quite different from other vehicles for human space travel. We have collected the most interesting facts about the Starliner on the occasion of its first launch with a team of astronauts.


1. Why has the Starliner spacecraft been under development for so long?

On the night of May 6-7, the Starliner is scheduled to make its first test flight with people on board. Its way to this point has been extremely difficult. The story began back in 2010, when NASA announced a competition to create a manned spacecraft for flights to the ISS.

According to the technical requirements provided, Boeing began to develop the spacecraft based on the command module of the Apollo project, created back in the 1960s. Initially, it was believed that it would make its first flight in 2015. However, in 2014, this date was moved to 2017. And in 2016, it became known that the first capsule was finally assembled.

In December 2019, the Starliner finally made its first flight in unmanned mode. Then it failed to dock with the ISS. This was achieved only during the second unmanned mission, which took place in 2022. And finally, it will fly into space with a crew.

2. What does CST-100 mean?

The abbreviation CST-100 requires additional clarification. CST is Crew Space Transportation. This name is associated with the NASA program, under which the spacecraft was created.

But with the number 100, everything is a little more interesting. It is a reference to the “Karman line” — the conditional boundary beyond which space is believed to begin. It is drawn exactly 100 km from the Earth. This value is not based on any physical characteristics, because in fact the Earth’s atmosphere extends much higher. It just so happens that this beautiful number is considered by everyone to be the boundary, after crossing which the vehicle goes into outer space. And the developers of Starliner decided to use it to emphasize the fact that it is a spacecraft, and not something else.

3. How many people can the Starliner carry?

The Apollo command module was designed for three astronauts. However, it had to fly to the moon and back. Therefore, Boeing engineers have modified it, and now the Starliner will be able to carry as many as seven passengers into space. True, only two people will be on board in the test flight, but the next missions will be full-sized.

Interestingly, according to this indicator, the Starliner will become the record holder among manned spacecraft currently in use. Because SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is designed for four passengers, and Soyuz and Shenzhou are designed for three.

4. How will the spacecraft be launched into space?

The CST-100 Starliner is a large spacecraft. Its height is 5 m and its diameter is 4.5 m. It weighs 13 tons. That is, the rocket putting it into orbit must belong to the heavy class. This is exactly what Atlas V is, a two-stage carrier with a total height of 58 m.

The rocket has proven itself well. Its first launch took place in 2002, and in total it has already flown into space 99 times, so the next launch with the Starliner spacecraft will be an anniversary for it.

5. Is the Starliner reusable?

The modern space industry moves towards the creation of reusable vehicles, which will make flights cheaper. In this regard, Starliner uses a somewhat unusual concept. It can be called “limited reusable”.

The spacecraft design includes a service module, which will separate and burn up in the atmosphere each time. But the capsule with the crew can be reused up to 10 times.

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