NASA Announces Starliner’s Next Launch Attempt: May 6

Starliner, the new crewed capsule from Boeing, has been in the works for a long time. Originally unveiled in 2010, the capsule has been under development for the last 14 years, primarily utilizing NASA grants and contracts. However, Boeing itself has taken upwards of 1 billion dollars in hits to earnings as part of the craft’s development. After all that time in the prototype stages, Starliner is finally ready for its first crewed flight – which has now officially been scheduled for May 6th.

The launch will utilize a ULA Atlas V, which was also partly developed by Boeing. Like most Atlas V launches, it will take off from Cape Canaveral in Florida and take two astronauts – Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore – to the International Space Station.

To make room for the capsule, the crew already stationed on the ISS has to do some additional work, including moving a Dragon capsule out of the docking port on the ISS’s Harmony module to which the Starliner will have to attach. To move the capsule, they will also have to complete some additional “science and cargo logistics,” according to a NASA Press release.

Fraser covers Starliner’s successful test flight.

Those logistics seem to be the primary cause of a final five-day delay (from May 1st to 5th) that the Starliner will have to endure. Once at the ISS, Williams and Wilmore will spend a week helping out on the ISS before using the Starliner capsule to return to Earth.

That is assuming all goes well with their flight. Starliner has had at least one spectacular failure as part of its development, though it successfully completed an uncrewed flight in May of 2022. If any astronauts are ready to ride on a new crewed capsule, it’s Williams and Wilmore. Both have been astronauts for over 20 years, and each was a trained Navy Test Pilot before joining NASA.

The capsule they will be using, known as Calypso, has already been to orbit, though not as many times as the astronauts themselves. It was used in the first orbital test flight, and while it didn’t manage to dock up with the ISS, it did land successfully and wouldn’t pose a risk to any astronauts on board.

Video from Boeing showcasing Starliner mounted atop an Atlas V.
Credit – Boeing YouTube Channel

Upon completing this test flight, NASA hopes to rely on the Starliner to provide regular crewed missions to the ISS. This would be supplemental to the SpaceX Dragon capsule the agency already uses and mark the definitive end to the drought of American crewed spaceflight.

Future missions include a four-person flight planned for 2025, assuming all goes well with this first one. Boeing also has a contract with NASA for five additional flights between 2026 and 2030. But first, if all goes well, on May 6th, after decades of work, the world will hopefully gain another crewed vehicle to help facilitate our path to the stars.

Learn More:
NASA – NASA, Boeing Update Launch Date for Starliner’s First Astronaut Flight
UT – Starliner Faces New Delays for Crewed Flights to ISS
UT – Finally! We get to See a View From Inside Boeing’s Starliner During its First Flight
UT – Starliner Needs Even More Fixes, and Probably won’t Carry Astronauts Until 2023

Lead Image:
The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is lifted at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex-41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on May 4, 2022.
Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

Andy Tomaswick

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