Boeing Completes First Crewed Starliner Launch After Multiple Delays

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Key Takeaways

  • Boeing has successfully launched its first crewed Starliner spaceflight.
  • Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams will travel to the ISS for a week.
  • The flight is crucial for Boeing's role in NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

Boeing has finally completed its first crewed Starliner launch after numerous delays and scrubbed attempts.

A ULA Atlas V rocket carried Starliner into space starting at 10:52AM Eastern.

Mission commander Butch Wilmore and pilot Suni Williams will test Starliner’s full capabilities. They’ll stay docked with the International Space Station (ISS) for a week before a parachute landing in the western US.

The Starliner launch has been a long time in coming. A crewed mission was originally slated for 2017, but production and supply issues started pushing the timeline back. The first uncrewed orbital test flight failed in 2019, and a second flight slated for August 2021 didn’t take place until May 2022.

The crewed Starliner mission has faced multiple setbacks just in the past year. It was supposed to launch in July 2023, but was indefinitely delayed due to parachute and wiring problems. The first attempt on May 6th of this year was scrubbed after the team found fault with an oxygen relief valve on the Atlas V rocket. That and a helium leak led to multiple delays, and NASA scrubbed a June 1st launch after concerns about a ground launch sequencer.

A successful Starliner launch is vital to Boeing’s participation in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA wants both Boeing and SpaceX to ferry astronauts to the ISS, and has had to ask SpaceX for more Crew Dragon flights to make up for Boeing’s delays.

Boeing’s completed launch is also crucial for the company’s reputation. It has grappled with aircraft safety issues for years, such as the 737 Max’s flawed anti-stall system, and has lagged well behind SpaceX in privatizing spaceflight. With Starliner in orbit, Boeing can show that it’s ready to move forward and compete with the space industry’s current heavyweights.