Boeing expected to launch its first crewed Starliner capsule to the International Space Station

Boeing expected to launch its first crewed Starliner capsule to the International Space Station
Boeing expected to launch its first crewed Starliner capsule to the International Space Station

Boeing’s new Starliner capsule will launch NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams to the International Space Station on May 6.

After years of delays, Boeing is expected to launch its first crewed spacecraft to the International Space Station.

The American aerospace giant has already launched two Starliner capsules without a crew on board.

The first test flight was unable to reach the space station due to software and other issues in 2019. Boeing repeated the demonstration in 2022.

Starliner’s launch was delayed again to 2023 as the capsule was plagued by parachute issues and flammable tape that had to be removed.

The new Starliner capsule is scheduled to lift off atop an Atlas rocket on May 6.

“This is the first astronaut launch for Boeing under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. And I know they are very excited – you can see it on their faces – about going to the International Space Station on this historic mission,” said Jennifer Kunz. , associate director of NASA’s Kennedy Space Center, said at a press conference.

It will send two test pilots, Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, to the International Space Station (ISS) for a week-long flight.

Wilmore and Williams will be the first astronauts to ride on an Atlas rocket since NASA’s Project Mercury in the early 1960s.

The two NASA astronauts assigned to Boeing’s first human spaceflight recently arrived at their launch site, a little more than a week before their scheduled liftoff.

“An excellent springboard”

Wilmore emphasized that this was a test flight intended to find out everything that was wrong.

“Are we expecting this to go perfectly? This is the first human flight of the spacecraft,” he said at a press conference.

“I’m sure we’ll discover things.” That’s why we do this,” Wilmore added.

Williams says Boeing’s Starliner is similar to Orion, a crewed spacecraft used in NASA’s moon exploration program, Artemis.

“I honestly think this is a great stepping stone as we prepare to leave low Earth orbit and return to the Moon,” Williams said.

“I think if I was a young astronaut and I was thinking about going to the Moon, I think I would put my hand up and say: I want to fly Starliner,” she added.

NASA hired SpaceX and Boeing a decade ago, paying the companies billions of dollars to transport astronauts to and from the space station.

SpaceX has launched a total of nine crewed spacecraft for NASA since 2020. The last liftoff took place in March 2024 with Crew-8 on board. NASA said Space X Crew-8 would oversee the new rocket’s arrival on the ISS.

Even though the International Space Station is expected to cease operations by 2030, NASA still wants to have capsules from two competing companies for its astronauts.

To hear more about this story, watch the video in the media player above.

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