Boeing makes its third takeoff attempt on the first manned test of the Starliner spacecraft.

They say the third time is the charm. At least that’s the hope of Boeing, which is attempting for the third time to launch the first manned test of its Starliner, which aims to become a new “space taxi” for NASA astronauts to Earth. International Space Station (ISS) and compete with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which has been operating in the orbital laboratory since 2020. But first it will have to undergo a fiery test to transport the first astronauts to demonstrate that the ship is truly ready to fly. journey into space.

It’s been a long road to get here, with NASA signing a $4.2 billion (just over €3.9 billion) deal with Boeing in 2014 for the aerospace company to build Starliner – double what was awarded to SpaceX. , the second winner of the contract in which the US space agency invested $2.6 billion (about 2.4 billion euros), the ship was tested only twice. The first, in 2019, did not achieve its goal of reaching the ISS. The second, in 2022, reached the space station as planned, but there was no crew on board.

From there, delays only accumulated until finally the first attempt was made on May 5, which was ultimately aborted due to a problem with the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket responsible for lifting the capsule to Earth. ISS. While these tests were being carried out, another leak was discovered in the spacecraft itself, delaying the second attempt until last Saturday, June 1st. There was no success either: four minutes before takeoff, a problem with the ULA rocket automatically canceled the countdown.

This Wednesday will mark Boeing’s third attempt at the test, which will be critical for the company to begin flying to the ISS, which it plans to do in 2025 if all goes according to plan.


During the flight, manual mode will be tested – an action performed by NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, former US Navy test pilots, to see how the spacecraft reacts when it is “fooled” by its coordinates and whether it can navigate independently, even if the navigation systems fail. In addition, they will inspect the avionics and propellers.

When it arrives at the ISS (scheduled for docking on Thursday, June 6 at 6:15 p.m. Spanish time), Starliner is designed to dock autonomously, but Williams and Wilmore are also trained to take manual control if necessary. In addition, they will check the closing and opening of hatches. On the second day, after downloading data to the ISS, the spacecraft will go into standby mode, meaning the auxiliary computers will be turned off and essential equipment such as lighting, screens and ventilation will operate as needed.

Next, the “safe harbor” will be practiced: the Starliner crew will practice the emergency descent, including starting the engine. This test is necessary when emergency situations occur on the ISS (for example, the risk of a meteorite collision or fire). Since the operational crew will have four astronauts rather than two, Wilmore and Williams will “borrow” two ISS crew members to join them.

In a day, the crew will fully launch Starliner and make sure the equipment is working. After this, the mission plan may change depending on how long the ship will remain on the station.


While the crew could return about a week after docking, the extra mission days will allow them to resume their duties on the ISS to assist the prime crew and allow for additional time to rest before the next “trial by fire”: landing. Undocking will be scheduled 6.5 hours before landfall.

Unlike a normal mission, the crew will briefly take manual control during the cruise flight home to continue testing. Astronauts will evaluate how the spacecraft performs manual operations and compare it to the simulators they used to practice procedures before launch.

After a couple of orbits around the Earth, the crew will finally deorbit over the Pacific Ocean. Starliner’s primary landing zone is White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, with two backup sites: Willcox Playa east of Tucson, Arizona, and Dugway Proving Ground west of Salt Lake City.

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