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Boeing's long-delayed Starliner finally takes off with astronauts on board

Jessica Orwig,Paul Squire   

Boeing's long-delayed Starliner finally takes off with astronauts on board
  • Boeing launched its Starliner spacecraft carrying two astronauts to the International Space Station.
  • The launch went smoothly after the program was plagued by delays.

On Wednesday morning, Boeing's Starliner launched toward the International Space Station carrying NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams.

It was the first crewed mission for the commercial spacecraft, which has been plagued by delays due to technical concerns.

On May 6, a pressure relief valve in the Atlas 5 rocket led to the first scrub. Then on June 1, there was an issue with the three ground computers that orchestrate the final countdown, which led to another delay.

But Wednesday's launch went smoothly, with the astronauts lifting off at 10:52 am ET. The crew later reached orbit safely.

The successful launch could shake up the commercial spaceflight market.

Right now, SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft is NASA's main option for shuttling astronauts to and from space. The successful launch now suggests NASA could have a second option, removing SpaceX's US-based monopoly on human-to-space transport.

But first, Boeing needs to prove it can get Wilmore and Williams to the ISS and back home safely. Wilmore and Williams are scheduled to dock with the ISS at 12:15 p.m. ET on Thursday, June 6.

Compared to SpaceX, Boeing has been slower to break into the commercial human-space transport business. In 2014, NASA selected both Boeing and SpaceX to build spacecraft to transport its astronauts to and from the ISS.

SpaceX began launching astronauts in 2020, but Boeing's effort was hit with costly delays. Musk wrote on X, formerly Twitter, that Boeing's issues were due to "too many non-technical managers."

Wednesday's launch isn't Wilmore's and Williams' first time in space. Both are seasoned astronauts and have each spent more than 150 days in space.

But this mission has been a long time coming for Wilmore and Williams. They've trained longer for this mission than Neil Armstrong, Buzz Aldrin, and Michael Collins had for Apollo 11, The New York Times pointed out.

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