‘ULA and Boeing’: Engineer says space companies want to beat SpaceX to astronaut launches

News 6 tours Atlas V, Starliner launch tower

Under NASA's latest Commercial Crew program launch timeframes, United Launch Alliance and Boeing are planning on launching astronauts on the Starliner spaceship to the International Space Station sometime in 2020. 

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Under NASA's latest Commercial Crew program launch timeframes, United Launch Alliance and Boeing are planning on launching astronauts on the Starliner spaceship to the International Space Station sometime in 2020.

Essentially, hardware for the missions launching from Launch Pad 41 were mated to the launch tower in 2016.

On Friday, ULA talked about the latest on the mission from the crew access arm and inside the White Room.

Teams are targeting Dec. 17 for the uncrewed test flight of the Atlas V rocket and the capsule. When News 6 asked ULA Spacecraft Integrator Connor Murphy who wants to get astronauts back to space first, his employer or SpaceX, the engineer answered, "ULA and Boeing."

"Right here on American soil and on Launch Day with cryogenic fuel and a rocket all ready to go," Murphy said.

Whichever of the two rival commercial companies is first, it will be the first time since the space shuttle that astronauts will launch to the International Space Station from Florida.

Starliner astronauts Chris Ferguson, Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann will ride the elevator 170 feet above Launch Complex 41, turn left on the crew access arm and enter the White Room.

It's the walk astronauts have taken as their gateway to space for nearly 60 years.

Murphy said that, when inside the White Room, ULA and Boeing teams will help astronauts open the Starliner hatch and enter the capsule.

"We have comm boxes out here so that the astronauts can be tied in with the launch teams in the control centers," Murphy said about communications inside the White Room.

On the launch tower platform, in case of emergency, the astronauts would zip line to safety.

“We’re making every effort so that we have a successful launch on the first try,” Murphy said.


About the Author:

James joined News 6 in March 2016 as the Brevard County Reporter. His arrival was the realization of a three-year effort to return to the state where his career began. James is from Pittsburgh, PA and graduated from Penn State in 2009 with a degree in Broadcast Journalism.