Starliner Sets Off on 1st Flight With NASA Astronauts Aboard After two previous launch attempts were called off, the Boeing-built spacecraft was headed to the International Space Station. It will stay there until at least June 14.

  Two veteran NASA astronauts with 500 days of previous spaceflight experience between them are the first crew of Boeing's (BA.N), opens a new tab

 pxpCST-100 Starliner space capsule launched to space in a test flight on Wednesday from Florida.
Barry "Butch" Wilmore and Sunita "Suni" Williams are set to test Starliner's manual controls before it docks with the International Space Station (ISS) in orbit on Thursday. Both will be arriving at the ISS for the third time.
Here are more details about the astronauts:
* Wilmore, 61, a retired U.S. Navy captain, completed four operational deployments flying fighter jets off the decks of aircraft carriers, including 21 combat missions during the first U.S. Gulf War in the 1990s. He also served as a Navy test pilot and flight instructor before joining the NASA astronaut corps in 2000.
He first flew to the space station as a NASA space shuttle pilot in 2009 and returned to the orbiting laboratory in 2014 - launched aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft with two cosmonauts - for a long-duration mission, including several months as station commander.
To date, Wilmore has logged 178 days in space and four spacewalks.
A Tennessee native who played college football while attending Tennessee Tech University, Wilmore holds advanced degrees in electrical engineering and aviation systems. He is married with two daughters.
* Williams, 58, a former Navy helicopter pilot with experience flying more than 30 different rotary aircraft, was deployed as part of a helicopter combat support squadron during the first Gulf War. She later flew in support of Navy disaster relief operations in Florida following Hurricane Andrew.
She returned to the naval test pilot school as a rotary aircraft instructor before being selected for the NASA astronaut program in 1998.

Like Wilmore, Williams first flew to the space station aboard a space shuttle and made a return visit as a Soyuz passenger riding along with two cosmonauts. Both her ISS tours - in 2006-2007 and in 2012 - were long-duration science expeditions.
After two stays aboard the outpost, Williams had set a world record for the most time spent by a woman in orbit outside a spacecraft, logging a total of 50 hours and 40 minutes combined during seven spacewalks. Her record has since been surpassed by fellow astronaut Peggy Whitson.
During her second ISS mission in 2012, Williams became only the second woman designated as commander of the station.
An avid athlete, Williams in 2007 became the first person to complete a marathon in space, competing virtually in the Boston Marathon from orbit on the space station's treadmill to go the distance in four hours and 24 minutes.
Taking the concept to the next level, Williams in 2012 completed the first triathlon in space, again using the treadmill and a stationary bicycle, then performing a mix of weight-lifting and resistance exercises on a fitness machine that approximated swimming in microgravity.
So far, Williams has spent a total of 322 days in space and now made history again by becoming the first woman to fly on the inaugural crewed mission of a new orbital spacecraft.
Born in Massachusetts, Williams currently resides in Houston with her husband, a federal police officer who also flew helicopters earlier in his career.
 Boeing's (BA.N, opens new tab new Starliner capsule flew its first crew of astronauts to orbit on Wednesday from Florida in a much-delayed test mission to the International Space Station, a milestone in the aerospace giant's ambitions to step up its competition with Elon Musk's SpaceX.
The CST-100 Starliner, with astronauts Barry "Butch" Wilmore and Sunita "Suni" Williams aboard, lifted off from the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, strapped to an Atlas V rocket furnished and flown by the Boeing-Lockheed Martin (LMT.N), opens a new tab joint venture United Launch Alliance (ULA).
The gumdrop-shaped capsule and its crew are headed for a rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS) following years of technical problems, delays, and a successful 2022 test mission to the orbital laboratory without astronauts aboard.
The rocket's engines thundered to life in flaming clouds of exhaust and coolant-water vapor as the spacecraft roared off its launch pad into sunny skies from Florida's Atlantic Coast.
The rocket's upper stage separated from its core booster about four minutes into flight, followed by Starliner's separation from the second stage. On its own, the spacecraft fired onboard thrusters to push itself into orbit, kicking off its 24-hour catch-up journey with the ISS, which orbits some 250 miles (400 km) above Earth.
Boeing intends for Starliner - seeded with NASA funding - to compete with SpaceX's Crew Dragon capsule, which since 2020 has been the U.S. space agency's only vehicle for sending ISS crew members to orbit from U.S. soil.
"This is another milestone in this extraordinary history of NASA," the agency's administrator Bill Nelson told a press conference.
The mission is a test flight required before NASA can certify Starliner for routine astronaut missions. Now in space, the capsule will need to execute precise maneuvers to dock with the ISS on Thursday, demonstrate it can stay docked for about eight days, and then safely return the two astronauts to Earth, among other flight objectives.
Mark Nappi, Boeing's Starliner program chief, told reporters that tens of thousands of things have to go right during Starliner's launch and that on Wednesday "it all lined up."
"We had just a perfect countdown and launch. ... It's been a long time coming. And we're really, really proud," Nappi said.
Boeing shares closed up 0.7%.
Item 1 of 8 A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying two astronauts aboard Boeing's Starliner-1 Crew Flight Test (CFT), is launched on a mission to the International Space Station, in Cape Canaveral, Florida, U.S. June 5, 2024. REUTERS/Joe Skipper
Last-minute issues had nixed the Starliner's first two crewed launch attempts. A May 6 countdown was halted two hours before liftoff over three issues that required weeks of extra scrutiny. Another try last Saturday was halted less than four minutes before liftoff because of a launchpad computer glitch.
The seven-seat Starliner's inaugural crew includes two veteran NASA astronauts Wilmore, 61, a retired U.S. Navy captain and fighter pilot, and Williams, 58, a former Navy helicopter test pilot with experience flying more than 30 different aircraft.
They have spent a combined 500 days in space over the course of two ISS missions each. Wilmore is the designated commander, with Williams in the pilot seat.


Boeing, with its commercial airplane operations rocked by a series of crises involving its 737 MAX jetliners, needs a win in space for its Starliner venture, already several years behind schedule and more than $1.5 billion over budget. Getting Starliner to this point has been a fraught process for Boeing under its $4.2 billion fixed-priced contract with NASA, which wants the redundancy of two different U.S. rides to the ISS.
The longtime NASA contractor has built modules for the decades-old ISS and rockets designed to loft astronauts toward the moon. But Boeing had never before built its own operational spacecraft, a feat complicated by years of software issues, technical glitches, and management shakeups on the Starliner program.
SpaceX's Crew Dragon has become a dependable taxi to orbit for NASA. That capsule and Starliner are among the first in a new generation of privately built spacecraft designed to fly astronauts to low-Earth orbit, and later to the moon under NASA's Artemis program.
Starliner, which like Crew Dragon is reusable, would compete head-to-head with the SpaceX capsule, which since 2020 has been NASA's only vehicle for sending ISS crew members to orbit from U.S. soil.
"Congratulations on a successful launch," Musk wrote on social media.
Boeing intends to build two Starliner capsules that can carry out NASA astronaut missions, and possibly more for private spaceflight missions, depending on commercial demand, Nappi said.
That demand is driven by government space agencies and early plans from other companies, such as Jeff Bezos' Blue Origin, to build privately run space stations whose development NASA is funding to replace the aging ISS in 2030. Crew Dragon has flown nine NASA astronaut missions to the ISS and four private customer missions.
Wilmore and Williams are due to join ISS's current seven resident crew members before riding Starliner back to Earth for a parachute and airbag-assisted landing in the U.S. Desert Southwest - a first for a crewed NASA mission.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) on Tuesday said it issued a license for SpaceX's fourth flight of its Starship rocket system, another test mission along the company's path to building a reusable satellite launcher and moon lander.
SpaceX, owned by Elon Musk, is aiming to launch its nearly 400-foot-tall (122-meter), two-stage Starship as early as Thursday at 7 a.m. CDT (1200 GMT) from its rocket facilities in south Texas, from which past flights in the company's test-to-failure development campaign have launched.
Starship represents the future of SpaceX's dominant satellite launch and astronaut business. It is designed to be fully reusable and cheaper - but more powerful - than the company's workhorse Falcon 9. NASA plans to use Starship later this decade to land the first crew of astronauts on the moon since 1972.
Each Starship rocket has made it farther in its testing objectives than previous tests before blowing up. The first launch in April 2023 exploded minutes after liftoff, and the most recent flight in March broke apart in Earth's atmosphere as it attempted to return from space halfway around the globe.
On Thursday, the rocket system's first stage, called Super Heavy, will ignite its 33 Raptor engines to lift off, then separate from the Starship second stage, which will blast further into space.
Meanwhile, Super Heavy will reignite some engines and return toward the Gulf of Mexico for a "soft splash-down" to simulate a landing that would otherwise be on land.
In space, Starship will trek around the globe and head for the Indian Ocean, where it will make a second attempt to survive the intense heat of atmospheric reentry - the crucial point at which it failed during the March test.
"The main goal of this mission is to get much deeper into the atmosphere during reentry, ideally through max heating," Musk, CEO of SpaceX, wrote on X on Saturday.
Starship is shielded with hundreds of small black tiles on its exterior that SpaceX hopes will protect it from the extreme heat the spacecraft endures while plunging through Earth's atmosphere at hypersonic speeds.
Much is riding on SpaceX's swift development of Starship, a key pillar of NASA's moon program that rivals China's moon ambitions.
Musk's drive to rapidly build Starship has endangered SpaceX workers in Texas and California, a Reuters investigation earlier this year found.

Boeing’s outgoing chief executive will appear at the United States Senate to answer questions about whistleblowers’ claims of safety lapses at the aircraft giant.

CEO Dave Calhoun’s slated appearance on June 18 comes after four whistleblowers told a Senate hearing in April that there were serious problems with the production of the 737 MAX, the 787 Dreamliner, and the 777 aircraft end of the list.

Senator Richard Blumenthal, who chairs the Permanent Subcommittee on Investigations, said Calhoun’s testimony would be a “necessary step” in addressing Boeing’s failures and regaining public trust.

“Five years ago, Boeing made a promise to overhaul its safety practices and culture. That promise proved empty, and the American people deserve an explanation,” Blumenthal said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Years of putting profits ahead of safety, stock price ahead of quality, and production speed ahead of responsibility has brought Boeing to this moment of reckoning, and its hollow promises can no longer stand,” the senator added.

Boeing said it welcomed the opportunity “to share the actions we have taken and will continue to take, to strengthen safety and quality and ensure that commercial air travel remains the safest form of transportation”.

“We are committed to fostering a culture of accountability and transparency while upholding the highest standards of safety and quality,” a spokesperson said in a statement.

Boeing has been under intense scrutiny since a near-disaster in January in which a 737 MAX operated by Alaska Airlines lost part of its fuselage mid-flight.

The incident renewed concerns about Boeing’s safety standards that came to the fore following two fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019 that killed 346 people.

The US Justice Department last month accused Boeing of failing to honor the terms of a 2021 agreement that protected the aircraft maker from criminal prosecution over the 737 MAX crashes.

Boeing, which is also facing a criminal investigation into January’s midair blowout, has said it believes it upheld its end of the deferred prosecution agreement.

Calhoun, who was named CEO in 2020, announced in March that he would step down from the company as part of a broad management shake-up at the company.

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