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NASA and Boeing's Collaborative Journey Towards Launching Starliner's First Crewed Mission

boeing starliner
Image Credit: Joel Kowsky/NASA via AP, File

NASA's collaboration with Boeing on the Starliner spacecraft marks a significant milestone in commercial space travel. The partnership's efforts culminated in a series of carefully orchestrated events, leading up to the much-anticipated crewed flight test to the International Space Station (ISS).

On April 16 the Starliner spacecraft was transitioned from Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to the launch site. The spacecraft was mounted atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral’s Vertical Integration Facility.

The mission, slated for a launch no earlier than May 6, will see astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams embark on a journey to the ISS. Their week-long stay at the ISS will involve a series of experiments and tests crucial for assessing the capabilities of the Starliner in the conditions of outer space.

In the early hours before dawn on the day of the spacecraft's move, the atmosphere at the Kennedy Space Center was charged with anticipation. The spacecraft emerged, transported on a vehicle and escorted over a 10-mile trek to the ULA’s facility.

starliner moved
Image credit: Gregg Newton/AFP

The build-up to the Starliner's first crewed test flight was not without its challenges. Originally, the spacecraft experienced setbacks during its first uncrewed mission in late 2019, which failed to meet its objective of docking with the ISS. This led to an extensive review and revision of protocols and systems.

Boeing and SpaceX, both tasked by NASA in 2014 to develop commercial crew vehicles, have seen diverging paths in their journey to operational readiness. While SpaceX has successfully launched multiple crewed missions since 2020, Boeing has been fine-tuning the Starliner, gearing up for a redemption launch.

As the launch window approaches, all eyes will be on Cape Canaveral, where the culmination of years of hard work will soon ascend once again towards space.

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