June 22, 2024

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft
Photo: Joe Raedle (Getty Images)

The Crew Flight Test for Boeing’s long-running CST-100 Starliner project is finally here. After a scheduled May 1 launch was pushed back a few weeks ago, Monday should be the day for Boeing’s space exploration moonshot.

Here’s what you need to know.

What is Boeing’s Starliner?

The Starliner is Boeing’s attempt to join the field of space tourism by providing a space shuttle replacement that can go to space and come back. It’s a competitor for similar offerings from Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Jeff Bezos’ Blue Origin. One notable feature of the Starliner, showcased during previous test flights, is that it can return to Earth on land instead of in the ocean.

When is the Starliner launch?

Starliner is scheduled to launch with NASA astronauts aboard for the first time on Monday at 10:34 p.m. local time from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. It will be the first time the Starliner has had a manned flight. It’s heading to the International Space Station and coming back. Crews have been making preparations for weeks. The National Weather Service says the conditions Monday are expected to mostly sunny with a chance of thunderstorms.

As for the actual launch, which you can watch on this livestream provided by Boeing, a rocket will shoot the Starliner into space. If everything goes according to plan, the Starliner will make its way to the International Space Station and dock there. Later, it will return to Earth and parachute to a spot in either New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range, Willcox, Arizona, the Dugway Proving Ground in Utah, or Edwards Air Force Base in California.

The crew will consist of Navy aviators Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Pilot Sunita “Suni” Williams.

How long has this been in the works?

Boeing first announced the Starliner in 2010. It was originally supposed to operational by 2015, but that expectation came and went a long time ago. The project has faced a number of delays over the years, from struggles fitting it on top of a rocket to software problems.

How much is Boeing spending on it?

NASA’s contract with Boeing to develop the Starliner was for $4.6 billion. But because it has taken so long and had so many problems, Bloomberg reports that Boeing has actually lost $1.5 billion developing the craft.

What does Boeing have riding on this?

Ever since a door plug blew out on an Alaska Airline-operated 737 Max 9 in January, Boeing has been dealing with headache after headache. A successful launch would be a needed win for the troubled company.

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