The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) and Boeing admitted multiple serious issues during Starliner’s first mission which could have destroyed the spaceship on its re-entry. The spacecraft had faced a Mission Elapsed Timer issue just 31 minutes after launch but the two companies denied any other anomalies during the mission.
After Aerospace Safety and Advisory Panel (ASAP) publicly outed the companies on February 6, NASA and Boeing held a press conference the next day to accept the anomalies in the name of releasing information for “transparency”. According to NASA, a joint investigation team examined the primary issues during the test flight and highlighted three specific concerns.
Apart from the Mission Elapsed Timer error, the companies revealed that the spacecraft faced a software issue within the Service Module Disposal Sequence, which incorrectly translated the Service Module disposal sequence into the SM Integrated Propulsion Controller. Another issue was related to an Intermittent Space-to-Ground forward link which impeded the Flight Control team’s ability to command and control the vehicle.
The Mission Elapsed Timer error, which was already in the public domain, incorrectly polled time from the Atlas V booster nearly 11 hours prior to launch. NASA said that the major software coding error would have resulted in the “Loss of Vehicle” if the ground controllers had not intervened.
This video shows a key #Starliner Orbital Flight Test objective: separation from ULA Centaur second-stage. Sep happened just before the Mission Elapsed Timing anomaly.— Boeing Space (@BoeingSpace) December 21, 2019
See more OFT mission objectives accomplished: https://t.co/GH4mO7fFW8 pic.twitter.com/tQRmDP3Acg
On December 22, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner conducted its first landing from orbit with a touchdown at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Before the landing, Boeing had said that the mission control team were pursuing primary objectives of maintaining spacecraft integrity and orbital trajectory for two landing opportunities.