CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Boeing’s reusable Starliner capsule embarked on its second-ever orbital test flight Thursday evening, taking off without a crew from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
Weather conditions at launch time, 6:54 p.m., were considered 80% favorable.
During the course of Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2), the Starliner capsule will stay docked at the International Space Station for about five days before returning to Earth. Astronauts aboard the space station have been preparing for the capsule’s arrival, reviewing Starliner’s systems and rendezvous procedures, and at least two of them — Flight Engineers Kjell Lindgren and Bob Hines — will monitor the capsule’s hours-long approach maneuvers on Friday, according to NASA spokesman Mark Garcia.
Starliner is currently expected to automatically dock at 7:10 p.m. EDT on Friday.
The Starliner capsule was mated to the Atlas V rocket earlier this month, and the whole assembly was rolled to Space Launch Complex 41 on Wednesday.
OFT-2 was scrubbed during a launch attempt in August 2021 and was later delayed that October as officials were still investigating the first hold-up, in which moisture reportedly leaked into Starliner’s service module. In 2019, a malfunction during the capsule’s first flight test caused it to return to Earth 48 hours after launching, as a maneuver critical to getting Starliner to the ISS was missed shortly after takeoff.
Due to the success of Thursday’s flight test, however, NASA and Boeing will plan for the next Starliner flight to be crewed.
A postlaunch news conference was held at 9 p.m. involving several members of NASA and Boeing.
The Starliner spacecraft arrived at the International Space Station and docked at about 8:28 p.m Friday. The crew of Expedition 67 will open Starliner’s hatch at about 11:45 a.m. Saturday, according to NASA.