After two failed attempts since 2019, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner is in orbit, heading for the International Space Station.
The next-generation spacecraft was launched Thursday on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket on a mission designed to test the end-to-end capabilities of the crew-capable system as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
Starliner lifted off on NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) at 6:54 p.m. ET from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Following an orbital insertion burn 31 minutes later, Starliner was on its way for a rendezvous and docking with the space station.
“I am so proud of the NASA, Boeing and United Launch Alliance teams who have worked so hard to see Starliner on its way to the International Space Station,” said NASA Administrator Bill Nelson. “Through adversity, our teams have continued to innovate for the benefit of our nation and all of humanity. I look forward to a successful end-to-end test of the Starliner spacecraft, which will help enable missions with astronauts aboard.”
Launch and orbital insertion are major milestones for Boeing’s second uncrewed flight, bringing the U.S. closer to having two independent crew systems flying missions to and from the space station.
Starliner is scheduled to dock to the forward port of the station’s Harmony module at about 7:10 p.m. ET Friday, NASA said. After a successful docking, the crew of Expedition 67 will open Starliner’s hatch at about 11:45 a.m. ET, Saturday.
“I am incredibly grateful to our NASA, Boeing, and United Launch Alliance teams that have demonstrated persistence, resolve, and dedication to ensuring we were ready for launch today and for this flight test,” said Kathryn Lueders, NASA associate administrator for space operations at NASA Headquarters in Washington.
She added, “We have learned so much as we’ve worked together to prepare for this mission, and we look forward to watching the spacecraft arrive at the space station for the first time and continuing to learn and improve as we prepare to fly our astronauts on Starliner.”
For the flight test, Starliner is carrying about 500 pounds of NASA cargo and crew supplies and more than 300 pounds of Boeing cargo to the International Space Station. Following certification, NASA missions aboard Starliner will carry up to four crew members to the station, enabling the continued expansion of the crew and increasing the amount of science and research that can be performed aboard the orbiting laboratory.
OFT-2 will provide valuable data toward NASA certifying Boeing’s crew transportation system for regular flights with astronauts to and from the space station.
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