Science

The Boeing Starliner capsule leaves the space station to return to Earth. Watch his landing live.

The first Boeing Starliner spacecraft to visit the International Space Station returns to Earth after a smooth undock from the outpost on Wednesday (May 25), setting the stage for an evening landing that you can watch live.

The Starliner lifted off from the International Space Station (ISS) at 2:36 pm EDT (1836 GMT) on Wednesday, with both spacecraft flying 271 miles over northern Singapore. The departure marked the end of five days on the station for Starliner, which is on a critical uncrewed test flight for NASA called Orbital Flight Test 2.

“It was a great stay on the Starliner,” US astronaut Robert Hines said on the station to NASA Mission Control in Houston as the capsule departed. “We are a little sad to see her go, but so far it has looked like a successful mission. Good luck, Starliner.”

If all goes well, the Starliner capsule will make a parachute landing at the White Sands Missile Range, a US Army facility in New Mexico, at 6:49 pm EDT (22:49 GMT). You can watch the landing live here on Space.com, courtesy of NASA TV, or directly through the space agency. (will open in a new tab). The deorbit and landing webcast will begin at 5:45 pm EST (9:45 pm GMT).

Current Updates: Boeing Starliner Orbital Flight Test 2 mission to the ISS
Related: Boeing Starliner OFT-2 test flight for NASA in amazing photos

Wednesday’s landing will complete Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2), a mission-critical unmanned mission to the ISS designed to show Starliner is ready to fly astronauts to and from orbit. Boeing has a contract with NASA to provide this taxi service, as does SpaceX, which has already launched four operational crewed missions to the ISS using its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule.

As the Starliner left the space station, video cameras on the station watched it float silently alongside the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule, as well as the Northrop Grumman-built Cygnus uncrewed cargo ship, which is also currently docked at the outpost.

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Photograph of the Boeing Starliner OFT-2 spacecraft undocking from the International Space Station at night.

The Boeing Starliner OFT-2 spacecraft undocks from the Harmony module of the International Space Station on May 25, 2022. (Image credit: NASA TV)

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A photo of a Boeing Starliner OFT-2 flying past the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft is seen below right after undocking from the International Space Station on May 25, 2022.

The Boeing Starliner OFT-2 spacecraft capsule is seen above the SpaceX Crew Dragon capsule (rear end bottom right) after undocking from the International Space Station on May 25, 2022. (Image credit: NASA TV)

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Pictured, a Boeing Starliner OFT-2 flies with the solar wing of the Northrop Grumman Cygnus spacecraft in the foreground.

The Starliner OFT-2 spacecraft (center left) against the blue Earth during a flyby of the International Space Station on May 25, 2022. Right: The Northrop Grumman Cygnus cargo ship’s solar panel. (Image credit: NASA TV)

OFT-2 lifted off last Thursday (May 19) when Starliner took off into space on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. The capsule arrived at the ISS about 24 hours later, delivering more than 500 pounds (225 kg) of food and other supplies to the astronauts aboard the orbiting laboratory.

Starliner will carry about 600 pounds (270 kg) of cargo to Earth, including three of the dozen or so Nitrogen-Oxygen Recharge System (NORS) tanks that feed atmospheric gases to the orbiting laboratory.

If all goes well with Starliner takeoff and landing, the capsule could soon be on board astronauts. Representatives from Boeing and NASA have said, for example, that they are considering potential manned flights to the ISS around the end of 2022.

But NASA won’t certify Starliner for crewed flight until it analyzes all data from OFT-2. And the mission didn’t go perfectly smoothly; For example, two of the capsule’s engines failed during its critical orbital injection about 30 minutes after liftoff. (Backup motor kicked in and took up the slack.)

The original OFT had much bigger problems. During this mission, launched in December 2019, Starliner experienced a series of software failures and was stuck in an orbit too low to rendezvous with the ISS. And OFT-2 was supposed to be launched last summer, but mission members discovered a valve problem in the Starliner propulsion system that took about eight months to fix.

Mike Wall is the author of Out There (will open in a new tab)(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrations by Carl Tate), a book about the search for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (will open in a new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (will open in a new tab) or on facebook (will open in a new tab).

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