Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft makes safe landing after botched test flight

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(CNN) — Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft made a soft touch down in the desert of New Mexico early Sunday. It marked the end of a tense two-day effort to return the vehicle to Earth after unexpected issues plagued its inaugural flight to orbit, forcing it to make an early return.

The spacecraft launched an uncrewed test flight on Friday but had to abort its mission to dock with the International Space Station when it failed to put itself on the right trajectory.

Starliner’s return on Sunday was a win for Boeing because experts will be able to retrieve valuable data about whether the spacecraft, which is designed to fly NASA astronauts to the space station, can execute a safe landing after returning from space.

Boeing has worked for the past decade to prepare Starliner for crewed missions after NASA asked the private sector to design spacecraft capable of ferrying astronauts to the ISS after retiring the space shuttle program.

NASA allotted Boeing $4.2 billion in 2014 for Starliner development. It was expected to be ready by 2017. But it’s suffered numerous delays and development setbacks.

The mission the spacecraft undertook this week was a massive milestone: It was expected to be the last major test before the craft was finally ready to fly NASA astronauts.

Starliner successfully launched into space aboard a rocket Friday morning, but after detaching from the launch vehicle, Starliner failed to ignite its engines and put itself on the correct path to the space station.

Officials attributed the issue to a problem with the vehicle’s on-board clock. Flight controllers were able to fix that issue shortly after the mishap on Friday.

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