Sunday, July 21, 2024

Starliner launch: When is Boeing testing its crewed space capsule? -Dlight News

Boeing is preparing its Starliner spacecraft for its first crewed flight. The capsule has been in the works for more than a decade, and this historic flight will help launch a new era for the US space industry.

When is Starliner taking off?

Starliner is scheduled to launch on 1 June at 17.25 BST, or 12.25pm local time at Cape Canaveral in Florida. The capsule will ride atop an Atlas V rocket, which has never flown in a crewed mission before.

This mission was scheduled to take off in May, but a faulty valve in the rocket caused a delay. The valve was replaced, but technicians found a helium leak in one of Starliner’s thrusters. Ultimately, NASA decided the leak was not a problem and set a new launch date. “We could handle this particular leak if that leak rate were to grow even up to 100 times,” NASA’s Steve Stich said during a briefing on 24 May.

How can I watch the Starliner launch?

NASA will be live-streaming the launch on its website as well as its YouTube channel. The webcast will begin about 4 hours before liftoff. The agency also plans to broadcast Starliner docking with the International Space Station (ISS) on 2 June.

What is Starliner’s mission?

Because this is Starliner’s first crewed test flight, the goal is simply to get its two passengers to the ISS and back safely. The two astronauts aboard this flight are Butch Wilmore and Sunita Williams, each of whom has already been to the ISS twice. The plan is for them to stay aboard the ISS for about a week before returning to Earth. Over the course of the mission, the astronauts and their spacecraft technicians on Earth will test Starliner’s hardware and software to ensure that it will be safe for future missions.

What does this mean for space flight more generally?

NASA awarded Boeing and SpaceX similar contracts in 2014 to build capsules to shuttle astronauts to and from the ISS. So far, Boeing’s Starliner has lagged behind SpaceX’s Dragon capsule, which made its first crewed flight in 2020. Now, having two travel options to reach the ISS could transform how space flight operates in the US. SpaceX has dominated crewed space flight in the US for years, so this may open up a broader playing field in orbit.

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