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NASA and Boeing Launched First Crewe Starliner Mission After Multiple Delays

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Starliner spacecraft

Boeing’s Starliner space capsule delayed for a long time. But finally Starliner launched from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. On board were two NASA astronauts. About twelve minutes after liftoff the capsule reached orbit. The astronauts will spend the next 25 hours to the International Space Station.

This mission is the first time of the Starliner capsule, built by Boeing, is carrying people. The capsule scheduled to dock with the international space station on Thursday at around 12:15 pm ET. The crew includes astronaut Barry Butch Wilmore as the commander and Sunita Suni Williams as the mission pilot.

Third time they tried to launch the Starliner. On Saturday, they had to stop the countdown with less than four minutes left because of a problem with the flight computers that control the launch.

The launch provider, ULA, fixed this by replacing a power supply and rescheduled the launch for Wednesday. Last month, another attempt canceled because a valve on the Atlas V rocket’s upper stage, called Centaur, was not working properly.

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NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore (left) and Suni Williams, donning Boeing spacesuits, leave the operations and checkout building en route to the launchpad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore (left) and Suni Williams, donning Boeing spacesuits, leave the operations and checkout building en route to the launchpad at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

While fixing the valve problem, Boeing found another issue a helium leak. Helium used in the Starliner’s propulsion system. After looking at all the data, NASA felt confident that Boeing could still successfully complete the mission.

With all those problems fixed and Starliner on its way to the space station. It looks like the third try is indeed the lucky one. Now that it has launched, Wilmore and Williams are taking Starliner on its first flight. Which is testing it out before it starts regular missions for NASA.

After the Space Shuttle retired in 2011, NASA teamed up with two companies, Boeing and SpaceX, to transport astronauts to and from the space station.

Boeing has been slower than SpaceX in space transportation. SpaceX has already flown nine missions for NASA and four private flights. In 2019, an un-crewed Starliner mission failed to reach the space station because of faulty flight computer code.

A second test flight in 2022 was successful, but later, issues found with the capsule’s parachute systems.

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Additionally, an analysis showed that tape used for the spacecraft’s cabling was flammable. Boeing fixed these problems and got NASA’s approval to launch the crew.

However, the first attempt to launch this crewed mission last month canceled. Because of a problem with the rocket that supposed to boost Starliner into space.

Wilmore and Williams will test important systems on Starliner, like life support and communication. As it docks with the space station. Although the spacecraft can mostly fly itself. They will also try out the manual controls as they get close to the space station.

The crew will stay on the station for around a week before they come back to Earth. Which will landing in the southwest US under parachutes. Teams at NASA and Boeing will carefully study all the data from this flight before they say the vehicle is ready for regular missions.

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NASA wants to use both Boeing and SpaceX for astronaut trips, going to the space station roughly every six months.

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