Third time’s the charm — Boeing’s Starliner crewed flight test has finally launched

The third attempt at a crewed launch of the Boeing Starliner was a success. On Wednesday at 10:52AM ET, the spacecraft lifted off atop the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral, Florida, and now has reached a “safe, stable orbit.”

The Starliner will bring NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Sunita Williams to the International Space Station about 24 hours from now, where they’ll “test the end-to-end capabilities of the Starliner system, including launch, docking, and return to Earth.” The two astronauts will stay at the ISS for about a week before parachuting down in the western portion of the US.

This launch has been in the works since the start of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program in 2014, picking Boeing and SpaceX as its two private partners to shuttle astronauts to the ISS and back. Boeing received $4.2 billion to develop Starliner, but since then, it’s had years of problems, while SpaceX’s Crew Dragon soared ahead.

Starliner’s first uncrewed launch in 2019 ended in failure, but it finally docked with the ISS in 2022. Starliner later made its first launch attempt with astronauts on board in May 2024, but NASA scrubbed the mission due to a faulty oxygen relief valve on the ULA Atlas V rocket’s second stage. The second attempt, on June 1st, was scrubbed just minutes before takeoff because of issues with one of the ULA’s ground computers.

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