Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft successfully launched into orbit Thursday night from Cape Canaveral en route to the International Space Station, NASA said.
The unmanned spacecraft carrying about 800 pounds of cargo is expected to dock with the ISS around 7:10 p.m. ET on Friday, NASA explained in a post-launch briefing. The hatch will be open Saturday morning.
The delayed launch was Boeing’s first successful launch after two previous failed attempts to get to the ISS.
“What an incredible launch,” Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for NASA’s Space Operations Mission Directorate, said during the briefing. “We’re working on a few things…but overall the vehicle has so far – it’s had its insert burned, and it’s ready to go, and we’re really looking forward to it showing up at the Station. international space.”
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Two of the spacecraft’s thrusters failed, said Steve Stich, NASA’s commercial crew program manager, adding that backups have started successfully. “We need to do a little more work to figure out why they failed,” he said. There are a total of 12 thrusters on the spacecraft.
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He added that the sublimator, “which shoots water into space to cool the spacecraft” was initially a bit slow but worked well once in orbit.
Joel Montaband, NASA’s International Space Station program manager, called it a “historic” mission, saying it “provides a second crewman to the International Space Station team and the NASA in general”.
Both Boeing and SpaceX won contracts with NASA in 2014 to build spacecraft capable of carrying crew to the ISS, but SpaceX has been the only company to take astronauts so far.
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Boeing’s previous failed attempts date back to 2019, when the spacecraft was unable to dock due to a major software glitch, and 2021, when engineers discovered that more than a dozen valves on the module were service could not be opened before launch, according to the Washington Post.