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Boeing’s Starliner Finally Reaches Orbit, Boosting NASA’s Hopes for a 2nd Option to ISS

By Jeffrey Hill | June 5, 2024

Video capture from NASA’s live feed of Boeing Starliner’s launch on June 5th, 2024

Boeing and NASA have successfully launched the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft carrying NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams on a ULA Atlas V rocket. Liftoff took place at approximately 10:55 a.m. ET from Cape Canaveral, Florida. NASA confirmed minutes later that the spacecraft successfully reached orbit.

Starliner will now spend more than 24 hours traveling to the International Space Station, with docking anticipated to occur at 12:15 p.m. ET on Thursday.

This is the first crewed flight for Starliner, and a huge win for NASA, which has been hoping for a second launch option to ISS, along with SpaceX, since the agency ended the 30-year-old Space Shuttle program in 2011. The three surviving operational vehicles were retired from service following Atlantis’s final flight on July 21, 2011. With the Space Shuttle put to rest, NASA was forced to rent rides aboard Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

In the years that followed, NASA contracted with private companies such as SpaceX and Boeing for the Commercial Crew Program, hoping to access the ISS at a much lower cost less than Soyuz. The rising political tension between the United States and Russia during the past decade only added to the sense of urgency. Unlike SpaceX’s Dragon, Starliner was hampered by delays throughout its development.  NASA awarded Boeing a $4.2 billion to develop the spacecraft 10 years ago.

For Starliner, NASA is both customer and supplier for Boeing. NASA is buying the use of Starliner from Boeing, which in turn, is paying NASA for the use of its flight operations team.