Sat. May 25th, 2024

After years of delays, Boeing’s Starliner capsule is set to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) Monday, a milestone for the US aerospace giant and NASA.

The flight, a final test before Starliner takes up regular service for the space agency, is critical for Boeing, whose reputation has suffered of late due to safety issues with its passenger jets.

For NASA, the stakes are also high: Having a second option for human space flight in addition to SpaceX’s Dragon vehicles is “really important,” said Dana Weigel, manager of the agency’s International Space Station program.

Astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams are set to take off from Cape Canaveral at 10:34 pm Monday (0234 GMT Tuesday), if favorable weather predicted for the launch continues to hold.

Starliner will be propelled into orbit by an Atlas V rocket made by United Launch Alliance, a Boeing-Lockheed Martin joint venture.

Once in space, one of Wilmore and Williams’s tasks will be to temporarily pilot the craft manually, in a test.

The astronauts, both Navy-trained space program veterans, have each been to the ISS twice, traveling once on a shuttle and then aboard a Russian Soyuz vessel.

“It’s going to be like going back home,” Williams said ahead of the launch.

As for the Boeing spacecraft, Wilmore said: “Everything is new.”

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