Boeing's Starliner spacecraft to launch first crewed mission

united launch alliance boeing starliner 05182022 AP

Boeing’s first crewed mission of its Starliner spacecraft is set to launch Monday night, a milestone for the aerospace manufacturer.

The Starliner is scheduled to lift off at about 10:30 p.m. Monday, weather permitting, carrying two NASA astronauts. The Crew Flight Test will be the first time Boeing’s aerospace efforts carry people into space after a decade of development.

Boeing hopes the Starliner can take the astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), and plans to rival commercial spacecraft offerings from SpaceX, which has dominated private spaceflight for years.

NASA’s Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore will be on board for Monday’s launch, planning to spend a week at the ISS. The test flight will also see the astronauts take the craft through a series of careful maneuvers to push its capabilities.

A successful mission would be a massive success for Boeing, which has consistently fallen behind SpaceX since both companies were selected for commercial space flights in 2014. SpaceX has operated nine crewed missions so far, while Boeing has only run two unmanned flights.

Boeing received over $4 billion in federal funds to develop the Starliner, while SpaceX received about $2.6 billion.

The Starliner will sit atop the iconic Atlas V rocket, the first time a manned flight will use the Atlas V since the Mercury space flights of the 1960s, led by John Glenn’s famous first orbit in 1962. It will be the 100th launch of the Atlas V system, which has been used for satellite launches since.

The flight to the ISS is expected to last about 26 hours, and plans to be docked there for eight days before making a return back to the Western U.S. The company has planned six manned missions for the platform over the next six years, the projected end of the ISS’ operating lifespan.

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