Boeing’s Starliner Launches NASA Astronauts for the first time after long delays

Boeing’s Starliner Launches NASA Astronauts for the first time after long delays

Boeing’s Starliner spaceship launched on its maiden human trip, a years-long project that the corporation and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration had postponed several times.

The space capsule, carrying astronauts Barry Wilmore and Sunita Williams, was launched on Wednesday at about 10:52 a.m. ET from Cape Canaveral, Florida. A NASA feed showed Starliner launching into orbit atop a rocket.

The mission is a final test before Boeing’s gumdrop-shaped spacecraft is approved to begin transporting NASA personnel to and from the International Space Station.

The Starliner’s first crewed flight was scheduled for early May, but it was repeatedly delayed due to issues with the spacecraft, the United Launch Alliance-built Atlas V booster rocket, and a ULA base system.

First, a malfunction with a valve on ULA’s rocket caused a delay in launch. ULA replaced that part. The engineers then spent time researching concerns with Starliner, including a minor and isolated helium leak, before attempting to launch this past weekend.

The flight was canceled about four minutes before its scheduled liftoff on Saturday due to a fault in a ground system that automatically handles many launch operations.

NASA has stated that ULA pinpointed the problem to a malfunctioning power unit and changed equipment, paving the way for Wednesday’s launch.

Boeing has been working on carrying astronauts on the Starliner for years. In 2014, NASA recruited Boeing and SpaceX to design spacecraft for manned trips to and from the space station.

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Boeing’s Starliner Launches NASA Astronauts for the first time after long delays 3

Boeing, which helped push U.S. space exploration during the Apollo moon landings, said completing the crewed flight on Starliner would put it closer to meeting its responsibilities to NASA. Elon Musk’s SpaceX launched the agency’s first human mission four years ago and has been in charge of all subsequent trips.

Boeing has faced several hurdles with the Starliner over the years, including issues with software coding and jammed valves. The corporation disclosed $1.4 billion in accounting losses related to Starliner development.

The Starliner is scheduled to dock with the ISS on Thursday. Wilmore and Williams, seasoned former Naval aviators who have already gone to space, are scheduled to stay aboard the International Space Station for about a week.

In a March interview, Wilmore stated that it is always preferable to identify technical flaws with spacecraft before launch. “You don’t want to be in space wishing you’re on the ground,” he stated.

SpaceX has flown NASA astronauts on eight operational missions to the space station so far. The agency has another six of those flights booked with the company, the next set for August.

Should Boeing win NASA certification for Starliner—deeming the vehicle ready for regular flights—the company is under contract with NASA to conduct six more crewed missions to the ISS.

Mark Nappi, vice president and program manager for Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program, stated that the Starliner spacecraft behaved “extremely well” during the countdown, despite the late-stage failure.

“This is the business we’re engaged in,” Nappi said Saturday during a post-scrub news briefing. “Everything’s got to work precisely.”

Launch scrubs are widespread in the field of human spaceflight.

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The Wall Street Journal

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