20 Dec 2019 20:55

Russian RD-180 engines taking Starliner atop Atlas V rocket into space operated routinely - source

MOSCOW. Dec 20 (Interfax) - The Russian liquid-propellant rocket engines RD-180 installed on the first stage of the Atlas V launch vehicle were operating routinely during the launch of the Boeing Starliner spaceship, a source at Cape Canaveral told Interfax.

The Russian engines worked smoothly, the source said by phone.

The Atlas V rocket carrying the new, reusable spacecraft Starliner, designed for prospective manned missions, was launched from NASA's spaceport at Cape Canaveral in Florida on Friday.

The liftoff in test mode occurred at 06:36 a.m. EST, from the 41st launch pad.

The rocket's first stage made by United Launch Alliance, an alliance of Lockheed Martin and Boeing, is fitted with the Russian RD-180 engines.

Fifteen minutes into the flight, the second stage, Centaur, successfully put the spaceship onto a suborbital trajectory with an apogee of 181.5 kilometers and a perigee of 72.8 km. After separating from it, the ship was to begin a series of independent maneuvers that would transfer it into target orbit for a rendezvous with the International Space Station. However, its engines malfunctioned. According to NASA chief Jim Bridenstine, the problems were due to a time miscalculation.

"Starliner had a Mission Elapsed Time (MET) anomaly causing the spacecraft to believe that it was in an orbital insertion burn, when it was not," Bridenstine said on Twitter.

"The burn needed for a rendezvous with the ISS did not happen. Working the issue," he said on Twitter earlier.

The ship is carrying one passenger, a female mannequin named Rosie. In the event of a successful flight, the Starliner was to be certified by NASA for a manned mission.