NASA left red-faced Boeing’s Starliner suffers mission-ending ‘anomaly’

Boeing suffered more bad news overnight as its Starliner "space taxi" suffered a technical hitch that has forced ground controllers to abort the mission.

The Administrator of NASA, Jim Bridenstine, said in a press conference there had been a timing “anomaly" which caused the unmanned craft to use too much fuel at launch.

Because the automated capsule had become “confused” over where it was in its mission, it burned too much rocket fuel which left it unable to make its planned rendezvous with the International Space Station.

He said: “Because Starliner believed it was in an orbital insertion burn (or that the burn was complete), the dead bands were reduced and the spacecraft burned more fuel than anticipated to maintain precise control.

“This precluded Space Station rendezvous.”

The ship is now expected to touch down in the New Mexico desert some time tomorrow.

Nevertheless, Bridenstine insisted the mission wasn’t a complete failure: “A lot of things went right," he said. "This is why we test.”

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NASA no longer have any spacecraft of their own, relying on the Russian space agency to ferry astronauts to the ISS. The Starliner and Space X’s Dragon module have been created to plug that gap.

The Starliner project has slipped severely behind schedule. Its first mission was scheduled for 2017. There is talk of Boeing moving on to crewed missions without any further test flights in order to avoid losing any more ground to the rival Space X spacecraft.

NASA astronaut Mike Fincke commented the problem on this test flight could have been quickly fixed if there had been a crew on board the Starliner: "Had we been on board, we could have given the flight control team more options on what to do in this situation," he said.

Nicole Mann, who is slated to accompany Finke on the first crewed Starliner mission, says that she’s ready to go ahead with a launch

She said:”We are looking forward to flying on Starliner. We don't have any safety concerns.”

Boeing have suffered a turbulent year, with the 737 MAX crisis making a serious dent in the company’s fortunes.

There was further controversy this week after the budget airline Ryanair revealed they don’t intend to tell customers if they’re travelling on former Boeing 737 MAX ‘death planes.’

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