Boeing’s Starliner Launch for NASA: When to Watch


For Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, NASA is certainly hoping for the lure of a second expedition.

Boeing is one of two companies NASA hires to take its astronauts to the International Space Station. (SpaceX is the other with the Crew Dragon spacecraft.)

Two years ago, Boeing seemed to be on track to be the first to be ready to put astronauts on board.

All that remained was a demonstration flight with no astronauts on board, launched in December 2019. Embarrassingly, things went wrong almost instantly, exposing flawed software and bringing to mind the problems Boeing’s aviation division had with its 737 Max jet. to a double fatal accident.

Not only was the Starliner ready for astronauts, it took Boeing more than a year to analyze what went wrong, rewrite its software, and verify that the spacecraft would be reliable. They are scheduled to try again on Friday. Here’s what you need to know.

But the weather may not cooperate. Due to clouds and possible lightning, forecasts currently only give a 50 percent chance of favorable conditions at launch time. Tory Bruno, CEO of United Launch Alliance, which makes the Atlas 5 rocket that Starliner will fly, said on Twitter that conditions were windy.

There is another launch opportunity on Wednesday, although the chances of good weather are not higher.

The Starliner was scheduled to launch on Friday. But then events in Earth’s orbit intervened.

Russia had started new space station module successfully docking, Nauka Thursday morning. But then Nauka’s thrusters unintentionally started firing again, Pushing the International Space Station into a spin, the controllers were spinning about an hour and a half before taking control after about an hour.

The space station doesn’t seem to have survived any worse than wear and tear from its unscheduled gym routine, but NASA executives wanted to take the time to make sure. Due to covert military operations at Cape Canaveral over the weekend, the next launch opportunity was Tuesday afternoon.

After takeoff, the spacecraft will spend about 24 hours in orbit before arriving at the space station on Wednesday. Loading is scheduled for 1:37 PM The hatch will not open until Thursday morning.

Goals of this demonstration flight include verification of power, navigation and communication systems. But the biggest goal is to test the docking system, which has not been tried in the first flight.

Although there will be no astronauts on board, the capsule will not be empty. In the commander’s seat will be Rosie the Rocketeer, a dummy equipped with 15 sensors to collect data on the conditions people will encounter during flight. Rosie was on board during her first Starliner cruise.

The capsule also carries 400 pounds of cargo and supplies to the space station.

The Starliner will stay anchored at the space station for five to 10 days before returning to Earth, landing with parachutes and a large airbag in the desert in the western United States (unlike SpaceX’s capsule, which landed in the sea off Florida).


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