NASA reveals target date for first crewed Starliner flight

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft.
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Boeing / Boeing

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

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

Flying on board the Starliner will be 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 orbital outpost’s other crewmembers.

While the Starliner project has faced many technical issues and subsequent delays since 2019, the most recent target date for launch has been determined to a large extent by ISS operations, with the time around now particularly busy for spacecraft comings and goings. Ahead of Starliner’s launch, for example, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-8 crewmembers will board the Dragon spacecraft and relocate it to another ISS port to make way for the incoming Starliner.

Boeing, which built the Starliner, is also performing prelaunch closeout work and completing final certification for flight.

The first crewed flight test of Starliner will help NASA verify whether the spacecraft system is ready to fly regular crew rotation missions to the space station. Up to now, the Starliner has been on an uncrewed test flight that failed to reach the ISS, and another that managed to dock with the ISS before returning home safely.

The Starliner project is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and the aim is for the spacecraft to provide NASA with another human transportation system alongside SpaceX’s spaceflight system, which has been using the Falcon 9 rocket and Crew Dragon spacecraft to ferry astronauts to and from the ISS since 2020.

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