Boeing’s Starliner astronaut capsule is en path to the ISS 

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft is formally on its approach to the International Space Station, marking a historic first for the long-delayed astronaut transportation program. Inside the spacecraft are two NASA astronauts — spaceflight veterans Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams — who’re set to reach to the station on Thursday. 

The spacecraft lifted off at 10:55 a.m. ET from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center aboard an Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance (a Boeing-Lockheed Martin three way partnership). The lift-off comes after a string of delays that pushed the mission again by almost a month, first as a consequence of points with the Atlas rocket and later as a consequence of an issue with one of many three floor computer systems chargeable for the launch countdown. 

While there are extra milestones Starliner should hit earlier than Boeing and NASA can name the mission successful — docking to the ISS and finally returning the astronauts again to Earth — it’s nonetheless a historic leap ahead for the aerospace large’s lengthy delayed astronaut transportation program. 

If all goes to plan, Boeing will change into NASA’s second astronaut transportation supplier, becoming a member of Elon Musk’s SpaceX. Both corporations had been awarded multi-billion-dollar NASA contracts to develop a crewed taxi service a decade in the past, however Boeing’s program has been beset by technical delays which have run the corporate greater than $1.5 billion over price range. Boeing did execute a profitable uncrewed mission to the ISS in May 2022, however that is the primary time the spacecraft has carried people. 

While Boeing has struggled, SpaceX has soared: Using its Crew Dragon capsule, SpaceX has been offering astronaut transportation to and from the ISS since 2020. 

Wilmore and Williams will make an round 26-hour journey to the ISS, with an anticipated arrival at round 12:15 p.m. EST Thursday. During their journey, they’ll carry out a handful of flight check goals to assist Strainer’s certification for normal missions. They’ll must display the efficiency of crew gear from prelaunch to ascent, and assess Starliner’s thrust efficiency, check navigation programs, conduct communication checkouts, and consider life assist programs. 

NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams. Image Credits: Miguel J. Rodriguez Carrillo / AFP

Even after Starliner autonomously docks to the station and the crew are onboard the ISS, the 2 astronauts will carry out much more evaluations of the spacecraft’s efficiency, together with figuring out whether or not it may possibly carry out as a “secure haven” for astronauts within the unlikely occasion of a difficulty aboard the area station. 

Wilmore and Williams will stay onboard the station for round every week earlier than reboarding the spacecraft. After simply six hours, Starliner is predicted to make a touchdown beneath parachutes and assisted by airbags someplace within the southwestern United States. 

This is the final main step earlier than Starliner will be licensed as an operational crew system, and the primary Starliner mission is predicted to launch in 2025. 

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