Boeing Starliner Set For First Crewed Flight After Delays

Boeing is preparing to launch its Starliner space capsule on Monday night in its first piloted flight following a series of delays that have taken it years behind SpaceX’s rival Crew Dragon.

The launch from Cape Canveral, Florida, is set to take place at 22:34 local time, or 3:34 BST on Tuesday Morning, with the rocket expected to be visible from the southwest of England about 20 minutes after launch.

Starliner was planned to have its first unpiloted test flight in 2015, but this was delayed until 2019. When the flight finally took place, a series of malfunctions meant the capsule never reached the International Space Station (ISS).

A second uncrewed test flight was planned for August 2021 and was delayed until May 2022. The flight reached completion but raised issues about thrusters and the capsule’s cooling system.

Astronauts Barry Wilmore and Sunita Williams at the Starliner spacecraft launch pad in May 2024. Image credit: NASA

‘Lessons learned’

As Boeing’s system went $1 billion (£800m) over budget, SpaceX’s Crew Dragon has carried out 13 piloted missions since 2020, carrying 50 astronauts, cosmonauts and civilians into orbit.

Mission managers say all known issues have now been corrected, while upgrades and improvements have been implemented and the capsule has been thoroughly tested to verify its readiness.

Mission commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore said he has “full confidence” in mission management, NASA and Boeing.

“There have been some issues in the past. That’s the past. That is not now,” he said.

Co-pilot Sunita Williams, like Wilmore a former Navy test pilot, said, “I feel like we’ve had a lot of lessons learned, and they’ve been incorporated… We wouldn’t say we’re ready if we weren’t ready.”

Boeing’s Starliner approaches the International Space Station on an unmanned mission on 20 May, 2022. Image credit: Boeing

Test flight

Wilmore and Williams have four space flights, 11 spacewalks and 500 days in orbit between them, flying into space aboard Space Shuttle and Russia’s Soyuz ferry ships.

The astronauts are to test Boeing’s new blue space suits, which are about 40 percent lighter than earlier generations, are more flexible and have touchscreen-sensitive gloves.

Starliner is due to be docked with the ISS for about 10 days before returning to Earth, where it is to touch down on land somewhere in the southwestern US.

If the mission is successful Starliner is to be certified for regular crew missions to the space station, with its next mission possibly taking four crew, equipment and supplies into orbit early next year.

Matthew Broersma

Matt Broersma is a long standing tech freelance, who has worked for Ziff-Davis, ZDnet and other leading publications

Recent Posts

Microsoft Faces UK Probe Over Inflection Staff Hiring

Poaching staff? UK's CMA regulator confirms phase one investigation of Microsoft's “hiring” of former Inflection…

59 mins ago

Elon Musk To Relocate SpaceX, X HQ To Texas

Leaving California. Elon Musk protests new gender-identity law, says he will move headquarters of SpaceX…

2 hours ago

Hackers ‘Publish Walt Disney Internal Slack Data’

Hackers reportedly publish data from thousands of Disney internal Slack communications, including data on strategy…

1 day ago

Apple Shares Reach All-Time High On AI Optimism

Apple shares surge after Morgan Stanley rates company 'top pick' over AI plans and says…

1 day ago

Musk Confirms Robotaxi Delay For Design Change

Elon Musk confirms delay of Tesla robotaxi launch as company's shares surge after he publicly…

1 day ago

Silicon UK In Focus Podcast: The Value of Data

Discover the transformative power of data in our latest podcast. Learn how leveraging data can…

1 day ago