Boeing Starliner spacecraft set to launch first crewed mission to ISS


The Boeing Starliner spacecraft is about to take off for its first crewed mission to the International Space Station with two NASA astronauts on board.

The space capsule is set to launch from Space Launch Complex 41 in Cape Canaveral, Florida, during the night between May 6 and 7, 2024. If successful, this mission will mark the long-awaited resolution of a decade of technical difficulties surrounding the program.

Back in 2014, NASA commissioned Boeing and SpaceX to develop a spacecraft that would end its reliance on the Russian Soyuz system for travel to the International Space Station. The plan was for these two private companies to take over the reins in 2017.

On December 20, 2019, Starliner attempted its first flight to the ISS. The mission was supposed to last eight days but was cut short to two due to a clock problem that caused the ship to miss its intended orbit. As a result, the capsule was forced to land in the desert of New Mexico because it ran out of fuel after several minutes of erroneous navigation.

Meanwhile, SpaceX and its Crew Dragon have completed their mission, with the first inhabited flight in May 2020. 

In 2021, while preparing the Starliner rocket’s launch pad for another attempt, a problem with blocked valves on the capsule caused a new postponement. Boeing had to return the Starliner to the factory to fix the issue. Then, further delays arose due to problems with the parachutes, which were supposed to slow down the capsule during landing.

Finally, in May 2022, Boeing’s Starliner successfully docked with the ISS for the first time, although it was uncrewed.

Although the ISS may retire in 2030, the Starliner could be the orbital vehicle for other commercial space stations. For instance, Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin has imagined a space station called Orbital Reef, which could use the Starliner to transport space tourists.

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