Boeing's Starliner spacecraft will be ready for 1st test flight in March

By Hanneke Weitering
February 05, 2019, 10:38:28 AM EST

Boeing is on track to launch its new astronaut taxi to the International Space Station (ISS) next month.

Along with SpaceX, the private spaceflight company was contracted by NASA to begin launching astronauts from U.S. soil again for the first time since the space shuttle program ended in 2011. Boeing's CST-100 Starliner won't be taking any astronauts along for its first flight to the ISS, however. After docking robotically with the orbiting lab, it will return to Earth for a parachute landing.

If this test flight goes according to plan, Boeing will be ready to launch its first crew of astronauts to the space station in August, Boeing spokesperson Maribeth Davis told during a presentation of Boeing's future vision for space travel here.


(Boeing's CST-100 Starliner will launch on its first test flight to the International Space Station in March 2019. Credit: Boeing)

The mission, named Orbital Flight Test, will launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on an Atlas V rocketprovided by the United Launch Alliance. It was originally scheduled to launch in August 2018, but an anomaly during a test of the launch abort enginesled Boeing to delay the mission while they worked out the issue. Although the Starliner has not yet flown in space, it has completed successful parachute drop testswithin the confines of Earth's atmosphere.

The Starliner will be the second of two new astronaut taxis to debut for its maiden voyage in the coming months. SpaceX's Crew Dragonis currently scheduled to lift off on its first uncrewed test flight on Feb. 28, with a crewed flight to follow sometime in June.

Not only will the Starliner and Dragon become the first spacecraft to launch astronauts from U.S. soil in about eight years, but Boeing and SpaceX will also become the first private companies to launch people to the space station. Since the shuttle retired, NASA has been relying on Russiato launch astronauts to the space station using its Soyuz rocket-capsule combo.

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