Boeing’s Starliner set to fly astronauts for the first time on May 6 | TechCrunch

Boeing’s Starliner is ready for launch.

The first crewed Starliner mission, in which a capsule will carry two astronauts to the International Space Station, is moving toward its historic May 6 launch date, NASA and Boeing leaders told reporters.

NASA and Boeing concluded on Thursday that the capsule is ready for launch after completing a critical flight test review. Without any problems, astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams will board Starliner on the evening of May 6 and blast into space aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

About 24 hours later, both astronauts will reach the ISS, where they will remain for about a week. The Starliner will remain attached to the station; Both will use it to return to Earth. A total of five parachutes will slow the Starliner from ultra-fast orbital speeds to enable a soft landing somewhere in the western US.

This will be the second flight of Starliner to the ISS: the first, an unmanned mission called Orbital Flight Test-2, happened in may 2022, If Boeing and NASA are unable to meet the May 6 date, there are additional launch opportunities on May 7, 10, and 11.

The importance of the mission cannot be underestimated. NASA established the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) in 2011 to purchase astronaut transportation services from private industry; The agency chose SpaceX and NASA as part of the billion-dollar deal. But unlike SpaceX, which has completed all six missions and more under the original contract, Boeing’s Starliner has been too late By Many technical issues.

Those delays have cost Boeing more than $1.5 billion in costs. The aerospace giant has been hit by several other near-disasters recently, with the company facing regulatory scrutiny over irregularities at its commercial airplane unit. Earlier this year, it was announced that Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun would step down at the end of 2024.

For NASA, a new space shuttle means doubling America’s astronaut transportation resources and introducing a much-needed amount of redundancy into the agency’s human spaceflight program. If Boeing is successful in this test, Starliner will achieve its final certification and can begin regular missions under the CCP contract.

NASA determined that the probability of crew loss with this Starliner mission is 1-in-295, which is above the 1-in-270 odds required by NASA. (A NASA representative did not have equivalent data for SpaceX’s Crew Dragon.)

“The lives of our crew members, Sunny Williams and Butch Wilmore, are in danger,” said NASA associate administrator Jim Frey. “We don’t take this lightly at all.”