Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft successfully rolled out to its Florida launch pad early Wednesday, May 18, paving the way for a crucial test flight for NASA this week.
The Starliner spacecraft, perched atop an Atlas V rocket built by United Launch Alliance, rolls out to its pad at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station ahead of a scheduled launch to the Space Station international. Liftoff is scheduled for Thursday, May 19 at 6:54 p.m. EDT (22:54 GMT).
Boeing’s Starliner embarks on the uncrewed Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT-2) mission to show that the space taxi is ready to begin flying NASA astronauts to and from the space station. The mission is critical and a Boeing has tried to fly twice before.
Live updates: Boeing Starliner Orbital Flight Test 2 mission to the ISS
In December 2019, Boeing launched its first Starliner test flight, called OFT-1, but it failed to reach the International Space Station due to software issues that prevented the capsule from reaching the correct orbit. In July 2021, Boeing was ready to try again, but blocked valves on the spacecraft’s service module prevented the launch.
Boeing has since traded in the Starliner service module and is confident it has a fix for the valve issue that thwarted last year’s launch attempt. NASA apparently is too, as the space agency and Boeing cleared the Starliner OFT-2 mission for launch during a recent flight readiness review.
Boeing is one of two companies to have signed multi-billion dollar contracts to transport NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The other company is SpaceX, which has been performing astronaut missions to the station for NASA since May 2020.
If all goes well, Boeing’s OFT-2 Starliner spacecraft will lift off Thursday evening and arrive at the International Space Station Friday evening (May 20) for an approximately five-day stay at the orbiting laboratory. Astronauts are expected to open the capsule’s hatches a day later, on Saturday, May 21.
At the end of the mission, Starliner will return to Earth for a scheduled landing at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico like its predecessor OFT-1. Starliner uses parachutes, airbags and retro rockets to cushion its landing on land.
Officials from the US Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron predict a 70% chance of favorable weather conditions for the launch of the Boeing Starliner on Thursday. You can watch the launch on Space.com, starting at 6:00 p.m. EDT (22:00 GMT).