Boeing Space launched its Starliner spacecraft from Cape Canaveral in Florida on Thursday, May 19, using a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket.
The launch, which took place as planned at 6:54 p.m. ET (3:54 p.m. PT) is the second attempt at flying the spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) following a failed mission in December 2019 when the Starliner failed to reach the intended orbit.
Go #AtlasV! Go Centaur! Go #Starliner! pic.twitter.com/SxXI7tfBwh
— Boeing Space (@BoeingSpace) May 19, 2022
The uncrewed flight is still in its early stages, so we’re waiting for confirmation that the spacecraft’s route to orbit is going as scheduled.
The plan is for the Starliner spacecraft to dock with the space station on Friday, where it deliver supplies and equipment to astronauts aboard the orbiting outpost. The spacecraft will remain at the ISS for between five and ten days before returning to Earth in a parachute-assisted landing at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico.
“The flight test, which includes orbital maneuvering, International Space Station rendezvous, docking, undocking, and landing operations, will validate all of the critical systems and capabilities ahead of Boeing’s first flight carrying astronauts to and from the ISS,” Boeing said earlier this week.
If the mission is deemed a success, the crewed test flight will send the Starliner on the same route to and from the ISS. The hope is for that mission to take place within the next 12 months.
A successful crewed mission will pave the way for NASA to use the spacecraft for future astronaut flights to and from the space station. This would give NASA another transportation option alongside SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, which has been conducting regular astronaut flights since 2020.