Boeing Starliner’s first astronaut mission scheduled to launch Wednesday

On June 4, Boeing’s first Starliner crewed mission is set to launch NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams on a critical test flight to the International Space Station. Despite previous delays, the launch is scheduled for Wednesday at 10:52 a.m. EDT from Launch Complex 41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. Both NASA and Boeing have confirmed that the Starliner capsule, United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, and ground support equipment are in good condition for the upcoming launch. Weather officials have predicted a 90% chance of favorable weather for liftoff.
Starliner and its crew have experienced two canceled launches. The first launch attempt on Saturday was halted due to a power distribution issue at SLC-41. While ground crews worked on fixing and testing the system on Sunday, the astronauts, Wilmore (61) and Williams (58), continued with their mission preparations while remaining quarantined at the Kennedy Space Center.

According to NASA, the United Launch Alliance (ULA) team identified a problem with one of the three redundant power supplies that supply power to a specific set of computer cards responsible for controlling various system functions. This includes the card that controls the stable replenishment topping valves for the Centaur upper stage. All three of these power supplies are necessary for the final phase of the launch countdown to ensure the safety of the crew.
Steve Stich, the manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, expressed his gratitude for the hard work of the NASA, Boeing, and ULA teams over the past week. He specifically commended the ULA team for their dedication in quickly addressing the issues, keeping the NASA and Boeing teams informed, and ensuring their safety for the upcoming attempt. Stich emphasized the importance of taking the process step by step.

In the previous month, the mission to certify Starliner for future manned missions was canceled just two hours before launch due to concerns regarding an oxygen relief valve. The noise heard on May 6 was identified as a mechanical valve that occasionally produces a fluttering or buzzing sound, as explained by Tory Bruno, the CEO of ULA.

Once Starliner is successfully launched, it will separate from the Atlas V rocket within the first 24 hours and utilize its own engines to travel to the space station.
Wilmore and Williams, both trained test pilots in the U.S. Navy and involved in the development of the Starliner capsule, will utilize this mission to ensure the proper functioning of all systems on board. This is crucial in obtaining certification for future manned missions.

At approximately 12:15 p.m. on Thursday, the Starliner will transport Wilmore and Williams to the forward-facing port of the Harmony module on the space station.

During their approximately one-week stay at the space station, the astronauts will conduct tests on the Starliner spacecraft in preparation for certification. This certification process could potentially position Boeing in direct competition with SpaceX and its commercial flight program.

Upon completion of their mission, Wilmore and Williams will return to Earth in the same capsule. The capsule will descend with the assistance of parachutes and land in the southwestern United States.