Boeing's first crewed Starliner mission is finally heading to the ISS

The spacecraft successfully blasted off after a series of delays.


Boeing's first Starliner flight with a human crew onboard has successfully blasted off to space on top of United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket, almost a month after it was originally scheduled to launch. NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Sunita Williams entered the Starliner capsule and completed necessary checks by 10:08AM ET. Less than 30 minutes after the astronauts entered the capsule, the CEO ULA tweeted that the company was "working an issue with topping valves on the ground side" and that it was running the fix through its Software Integration Lab (SIL) before it's executed. In the end, ULA was able to implement a workaround, and the spacecraft lifted off at 10:52am ET.

Back on May 6, the companies scrubbed the flight two hours after it was originally scheduled to launch after their ground teams detected "anomalous behavior by the pressure regulation valve in the liquid oxygen tank of the Centaur upper stage of the ULA Atlas V launch vehicle." The valve was replaced and the Starliner teams were ready to make another launch attempt when they encountered another issue: They found a "small helium leak" in the spacecraft's service module.

NASA and Boeing had to push back Starliner's launch date in order to investigate the leak and figure out how it would affect the flight. They eventually determined that it didn't pose a threat to the mission's safety, so they scheduled a launch attempt for June 1. Last week's launch was also scrubbed last minute due to the "computer ground launch sequencer not loading into the correct operational configuration after proceeding into terminal count."

Aside from the NASA astronauts, Starliner flew with 760 pounds of cargo, including 300 pounds of food and other supplies requested by the crew that's currently onboard the International Space Station. Wilmore and Williams will spend eight days on the ISS conducting tests to help determine whether the Starliner is ready for regular flights to the orbiting laboratory. NASA said that if the mission is completed successfully, it will begin the final process of "certifying Starliner and its systems for crewed rotation missions to the space station."

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