NASA reveals target date for first crewed Starliner flight

Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Boeing / Boeing

NASA and Boeing are making final preparations for the long-awaited and much-delayed maiden flight of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft.

A message posted on the NASA website on Monday said the launch team was targeting “no earlier than Monday, May 6” for liftoff aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Flying aboard the Starliner were NASA astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore. The pair will head to the International Space Station (ISS) and spend about 10 days there living and working alongside the rest of the orbital outpost’s crew.

Although the Starliner project has faced numerous technical issues and subsequent delays since 2019, the latest target launch date is largely dictated by ISS operations, with times currently particularly busy for spacecraft arrivals and departures. Ahead of the Starliner launch, for example, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-8 crew will board the Dragon spacecraft and move it to another ISS port to make way for the upcoming Starliner.

Boeing, which is building the Starliner, is also conducting pre-launch shutdown work and completing final certification for the flight.

Starliner’s first crewed flight test will help NASA verify whether the spacecraft’s systems are ready to fly regular crew rotation missions to the space station. To date, Starliner has conducted an uncrewed test flight that failed to reach the ISS, and another that successfully docked with the ISS before returning home safely.

The Starliner project is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and the goal is for the spacecraft to provide NASA with another human transportation system in addition to SpaceX’s spaceflight system, which already uses Falcon 9 rockets and Crew Dragon spacecraft to transport astronauts to and from the ISS . since 2020.

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