Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner in wrong orbit after maiden launch

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft has suffered a major setback on its maiden spaceflight today. About 15 minutes after a successful liftoff from Space Launch Complex 41 on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 6:36 am EST, the unmanned vehicle designed to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS) suffered a timer malfunction that has placed it in an incorrect orbit.

According to NASA, the Starliner is in a stable orbit at an altitude of 216 x 186 km (134 x 116 mi) and flight engineers are trying to determine exactly what happened, the status of the spacecraft, and how to boost it into a higher orbit. However, the rendezvous with the ISS has been abandoned in favor of returning the capsule to a controlled landing at Whites Sands Missile Range in New Mexico after about 48 hours.

The CST-100 Orbital Flight Test was originally intended as a full automated mission test of the spacecraft before sending up an astronaut crew.

The mission profile was for the Starliner to dock with the space station and then return under automated control for a soft landing back on Earth.