Starliner Finally Launches, Carrying Two Astronauts Into Orbit

After many delays and two scrubbed launch attempts, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner successfully launched earlier today! The Crewed Flight Test (CFT) took off from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida, at 10:52 a.m. EDT (07:52 PDT) atop a ULA Atlas V rocket. For this mission, the capsule is carrying two NASA astronauts: Barry “Butch” Wilmore (commander) and Sunita “Suni” Williams (pilot). They are expected to reach the International Space Station (ISS) at 12:15 p.m. EDT (09:15 a.m. PDT) on Thursday, June 6th.

Assuming all goes to plan, this mission will effectively validate the Starliner as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). Then, we can expect it to make regular deliveries of cargo and crew to the ISS alongside SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft. This mission is the second time the Starliner has flown to the ISS and the third flight test overall. During the first test flight (OFT-1), which took place back in December 2019, the Starliner launched successfully but failed to make it to the ISS. After making 61 corrective actions recommended by NASA, another attempt was made (OFT-2) on May 22nd, 2022.

Though two of the spacecraft’s thrusters failed during the flight, the spacecraft managed to reach the ISS and delivered 227 kg (500 lbs) of cargo. After nearly two years of delays, another attempt was made on June 1st, but the launch was scrubbed 3 minutes and 50 seconds before liftoff due to a faulty power supply. But, as they say, the third time is the charm! The launch was followed by a NASA news conference at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida, beginning at 12:30 a.m. EDT (09:30 a.m. PDT), which NASA live-streamed via NASA+, the NASA app, YouTube, and the agency’s website.

The conference was chaired by NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Associate Administrator Ken Bowersox and Deputy Associate Administrator Joel Montalbano (NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate), Manager Steve Stitch and Mark Nappi (the manager and VP and program manager of CCP), and ULA president and CEO Tory Bruno. You can check out the recap here:

NASA+ will also cover the Starliner‘s approach to the ISS, starting at 09:15 a.m. EDT (06:15 PDT) on June 6th.

Further Reading: NASA