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Boeing launches Starliner spacecraft on crucial test flight

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 was unable to reach the intended orbit.

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See views from the Space Launch Complex-41 launch pad and spacecraft separation during today's #Starliner #OFT2 liftoff atop a @ulalaunch #AtlasV. Stay tuned for docking with @Space_Station on May 20.

— Boeing Space (@BoeingSpace) May 20, 2022

Sixteen minutes after leaving the launchpad, Mission Control confirmed that the uncrewed Starliner had successfully separated from the ULA booster and was flying in space by itself.

A short while later, confirmation came through that the Starliner had executed its injection burn to achieve the desired orbit.

Thank you for the incredible boost to orbit, @ulalaunch!

Go Atlas! Go Centaur! Go Starliner!

— Boeing Space (@BoeingSpace) May 19, 2022

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.

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