Boeing’s Starliner astronaut taxi will make a critical test flight Thursday night (May 19) and you can watch the action live.
Starliner should take off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V Rocket from Space Force Station Cape Canaveral in Florida on Thursday at 6:54 p.m. EDT (2254 GMT), kicking off an uncrewed mission to the International Space Station known as Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2).
You can watch it live here on Space.com, courtesy of NASA, or directly through the space agency. Coverage will begin Thursday at 6 p.m. EDT (2200 GMT).
Live updates: Boeing Starliner Orbital Flight Test 2 mission to the ISS
OFT-2 is designed to show that Starliner is ready to transport astronauts to and from NASA’s orbital laboratory, which signed a contract with Boeing for such services in 2014. SpaceX signed a similar agreement at the same time and has already launched four operational crewed flights to the station with its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule.
If OFT-2 goes as planned, Starliner will arrive at international space station (ISS) on Friday evening (May 20), just over 24 hours after liftoff. The spacecraft will remain docked at the orbiting lab for four or five days, then depart and return to Earth for a parachute-assisted landing in New Mexico.
As its name suggests, OFT-2 will be Starliner’s second attempt at an uncrewed ISS encounter. The original OFT, launched in December 2019, ended prematurely after the capsule suffered a series of glitches and got stuck in the wrong orbit, unable to reach the space station.
Boeing worked through the issues and readied Starliner for launch on OFT-2 in the summer of 2021. But preflight checks shortly before the scheduled takeoff revealed 13 valves stuck in the capsule’s propulsion system, a problem that took about eight months to diagnose and mitigate.
But all looks good for an on-time liftoff this time around, Boeing and NASA officials said. Pre-launch checks revealed no issues with Starliner or its Atlas V rocket, and the duo was deployed in their pad Wednesday morning (May 18).
If all goes well with OFT-2, astronauts will board Starliner in the not-too-distant future; Boeing and NASA aim to launch a crewed test flight to the ISS before the end of the year.
Mike Wall is the author of “The low(Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a book about the search for extraterrestrial life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall. Follow us on twitter @Spacedotcom Or on Facebook.