US aerospace giant Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner failed to make it to International Space Station (ISS) because of a software glitch, reports say.
Starliner’s unmanned mission will return to Earth and land in New Mexico early on Sunday.
The capsule separated from Atlas V rocket 15 minutes after take-off from Cape Canaveral early on Friday but fell off its designated orbital path 35 minutes later because of a faulty timer that led to excess burning of fuel, Boeing and NASA officials said.
Had astronauts been on board, they would have fixed the problem, said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
The cause of the timer glitch is being investigated.
The failure of the demonstration flighthas come as a big embarrassment to Boeing whose 737 Max planes were grounded nine months ago following two deadly crashes.
The flight test was part of a US plan to end decades-old dependence on Russia for space rides after NASA’s Atlantis shuttle was retired in 2011.
The test comes months after SpaceX successfully sent its Crew Dragon capsule to the space station.
SpaceX and Boeing are planning to send astronauts to the ISS next year. It was not clear whether Friday’s mission failure would delay Boeing’s space plans.
NASA had inked a $6.8 billion joint deal with SpaceX and Boeing to fly US astronauts to the ISS in 2014.