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Watch the Starliner spacecraft star in its own aurora video

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner launched successfully atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on June 5, safely delivering NASA astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore to the International Space Station (ISS) the following day.

The Starliner, on its first crewed flight to orbit, was originally scheduled for a stay lasting just over a week. But in recent days, NASA announced the spacecraft would stay at the ISS until June 22 to finalize departure planning and operations, and also to carry out engine tests to evaluate the performance of thrusters, some of which played up during the Starliner’s final approach to the ISS on June 6.

ISS astronaut Matthew Dominick recently shared some cool footage showing the Starliner with a dramatic aurora backdrop. The time-lapse (below) was shot from inside SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, which docked with the ISS in March. As Dominick points out, you can even catch glimpses of Williams and Wilmore inside the Starliner, its interior lit up by their flashlights.

Timelapse video of aurora streaming behind Starliner taken from a Dragon window with Butch and Suni in the window of Starliner. Their flashlights light up the cabin.

0.5 second interval, f 1.4, 6400 ISO, 1/4 second exposure, 24mm lens. pic.twitter.com/gZuxYZu0Af

— Matthew Dominick (@dominickmatthew) June 16, 2024

In another shot also captured by Dominick, we can see the aurora seemingly emanating from the spacecraft itself. “Timing was great for the aurora to line up nicely with Starliner’s service module thrusters,” Dominick commented.

We have been looking at aurora out the cupola windows a lot lately. Starliner was doing some testing today so we decided to check it out from the Dragon windows. Timing was great for the aurora to line up nicely with Starliner’s service module thrusters. pic.twitter.com/mlsbLxFaJL

— Matthew Dominick (@dominickmatthew) June 15, 2024

When the Starliner has been fully certified — possibly after this current test flight — NASA will have another vehicle that it can use to carry astronauts and cargo to the space station, alongside SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which has been flying crew to orbit since 2020.

“We are continuing to understand the capabilities of Starliner to prepare for the long-term goal of having it perform a six-month docked mission at the space station,” Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said in a recent post on the agency’s website, adding that Williams and Wilmore will carry out additional hatch operations to better understand its handling, repeat some “safe haven” testing in which astronauts retreat to their spacecraft in an emergency situation, and assess piloting using the spacecraft’s forward window.

Trevor Mogg
Contributing Editor
Not so many moons ago, Trevor moved from one tea-loving island nation that drives on the left (Britain) to another (Japan)…
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