Key rocket launch set for Monday: What to know about the Boeing Starliner carrying 2 astronauts (2024)

Editor's note: The launch was scrubbed Monday. Here is the latest info on the mission.

Boeingwill have to wait to head to space as aplanned Monday evening launchto send two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station aboard its Starliner space capsule was called off due to a "faulty oxygen relief valve observation," according to NASA.

The CST-100 Starliner test mission scheduled for Monday night was years in the making and serves as a final demonstration before the spacecraft can be approved for routine trips to orbit. The stakes were high for the third and final orbital flight test for Starliner, as it would have been the first with a crew on board.

Just like Elon Musk's SpaceX capsule, Starliner is intended to be a vehicle that can ferry astronauts to and from the space station as NASA pivots to more partnerships with private industry. But Boeing has largely lagged behind its competitor, which launched its first crewed mission in 2020, according to Reuters.

Here's what to know about Monday's scheduled launched and how to watch it live.

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What to know about the Boeing Starliner, crew

The Starliner was designed to accommodate no more than seven passengers for missions to low-Earth orbit. For NASA, the capsule is intended to carry four astronauts along with a mix of cargo and other scientific instruments to and from the ISS.

Key rocket launch set for Monday: What to know about the Boeing Starliner carrying 2 astronauts (1)

The two NASA astronauts flying the commercial crew mission areBarry "Butch" Wilmore and Sunita "Suni" Williams. Both are Navy test pilots who have flown in space twice, according to Florida Today, part of the USA TODAY Network.

  • Williams, 58, is a former Naval test pilot with experience flying over 30 different aircraft. Selected as an astronaut in 1998, she has has logged 322 days in space over two missions since her first flight in 2007.
  • Wilmore, 61, is a retired Navy captain who completed 21 combat missions during Operation Desert Storm before joining NASA in 200. Since then, he has logged 178 days in space after his first trip to orbit in 2009.

The astronauts will be in space for a little more than a week testing the Starliner spacecraft and its subsystems. After the mission, the pair will board the Starliner for a return trip to Earth and a parachute and airbag landing in the American Southwest.

The first crewed flight of a new spacecraftis an absolutely critical milestone," NASA Associate Administrator James Free told reporters during a recent flight readiness review, according to Florida Today. "The lives of our crew members, Butch Wilmore andSuni Williams, are at stake. We don’t take that lightly at all.”

How to watch the Boeing Starliner launch

Boeing and NASA are targeting 10:34 p.m. ET on Monday for Starliner's launch from Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The capsule will fly to space on top of an Atlas V rocket.

NASA will provide live coverage beginning at 6:30 p.m. onNASA+, NASA Television, theNASA app,the agency's YouTube page and itswebsite. A postlaunch news conference is also planned.

Watch here:

Expect more coverage when the Starliner is expected to dock to the forward-facing port of the International Space Station's Harmony module at 12:46 a.m. Wednesday.

What went wrong on past Boeing tests

Dozens of software and engineering issues resulted in the failure of a previous attempt in 2019 to send an uncrewed Starliner to the ISS for a week.

While it reached orbit, the capsule failed to reach the space station and instead returned to Earth, according to Florida Today. That mission raised questions and doubts about NASA's future with Boeing, which is scheduled to fly six crewed astronaut missions once it's certified as safe for flight, Reuters reported.

The follow up flight test in 2022 met standards of docking to the space station and successfully landed, but not without the discovery of multiple issues as Boeing crews inspected the spacecraft later on, Florida Today reported.

Engineers have expressed a high level of confidence about the upcoming launch, the outlet reported.

"Our process in human spaceflight is very robust. We design around redundancy," Mark Nappi, vice president and program manager of Boeing's Starliner program, said during a March NASA news conference. "We test, test, and test."

NASA paid Boeing, SpaceX to develop spacecraft

Boeing was selected along with SpaceX to provide spacecrafts that would transport astronauts to and from low-Earth orbit for NASA.

Key rocket launch set for Monday: What to know about the Boeing Starliner carrying 2 astronauts (3)

Boeing's contract with the U.S. space agency awarded in 2014 was good for $4.8 billion, while SpaceX received $3.1 billion, according to Florida Today.

The partnership is part of NASA’s commercial crew program in which the space agency ispaying private companies to build spacecraft capable of ferrying trained astronauts to the space station for scientific missions. Under NASA's more ambitiousArtemis lunar program, it's also paid SpaceX $2.9 billion to develop the first commercial human lander for the moon and eventually Mars.

In March, SpaceX had its most successful test yet of the Starship rocket needed for NASA's Artemis missions. While in orbit, the Starship hit several key milestones and conducted a handful of in-flight tests that are a crucial step forward for it to be reliable and functional.

SpaceX, whose Dragon spacecraft flew its first human mission in 2020, recently saw its Crew-7 return to Earth after nearly 200 days aboard the International Space Station. The eighth crew comprised of three NASA astronauts and one cosmonautlaunched March 3and docked March 5 to await the arrival of Boeing's Starliner capsule.

If the mission is a success, NASA will begin the final process of certifying Starliner and its systems for crewed rotation missions to the space station, according to NASA.

Contributing: Brooke Edwards, Florida Today

Eric Lagatta covers breaking and trending news for USA TODAY. Reach him at

Key rocket launch set for Monday: What to know about the Boeing Starliner carrying 2 astronauts (2024)


What is the problem with Starliner? ›

Boeing has called off the inaugural crewed flight CST-100 Starliner space capsule after engineers detected an issue with a rocket valve. The decision to call off the launch on Monday came two hours before the scheduled liftoff and about an hour after two NASA astronauts had strapped into the spacecraft.

What rocket will launch Starliner? ›

After analyzing data following a launch scrub Monday, United Launch Alliance managers decided to haul the Atlas 5 rocket carrying Boeing's Starliner astronaut ferry ship back to its processing facility to replace a suspect valve, delaying another launch try to at least May 17, NASA said in a blog post Tuesday.

Why the Starliner spacecraft is important? ›

Starliner is important not just for NASA and Boeing, but also to demonstrate that more than one company can find success in the commercial space industry. But several of Boeing's other space activities beyond Starliner have also experienced mechanical failures and budget pressure, including the Space Launch System.

Who are the Starliner astronauts? ›

Selected to ride aboard Starliner on its first crewed run, and to operate its manual controls, were two veteran NASA astronauts with 500 days of spaceflight between them - Barry "Butch" Wilmore, 61, and Sunita "Suni" Williams, 58.

Why did Boeing Starliner fail? ›

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Boeing called off its first astronaut launch because of a valve problem on the rocket Monday night. Watch the event in the player above. The two NASA test pilots had just strapped into Boeing's Starliner capsule when the countdown was halted, just two hours before the planned liftoff.

Why did Starliner fail? ›

The Starliner failed to reach the I.S.S. during its first mission in 2019 after its onboard clock, which was set incorrectly, caused a computer to fire the capsule's engines too early.

How will Boeing Starliner land? ›

The Starliner is the first orbital capsule to land on solid ground in the U.S., which removes the need for recovery ships. The craft will land using parachutes that will slow it down to 4 mph before inflating large airbags.

What is the Starliner launch? ›

How much has NASA paid Boeing for Starliner? ›

In the wake of the space shuttle's retirement, NASA awarded two Commercial Crew Program contracts in 2014, one to SpaceX valued at $2.6 billion and the other to Boeing for $4.2 billion, to spur the development of independent spacecraft capable of carrying astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

Why is the launch of Boeing's Starliner significant? ›

The launch was designed to be a test flight which would send two astronauts, Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore, into Earth's orbit, test many of the spacecraft's functions, and dock successfully with the International Space Station.

Will NASA use Starliner? ›

NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams will launch aboard Starliner on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket for NASA's Boeing Crew Flight Test. Editor's note: This advisory was updated on May 6, 2024, to reflect a change in the list of participants for the postlaunch news conference.

Why is Starliner taking so long? ›

A mission 14 years in the making

Test flights were delayed for several reasons, ranging from unfavorable weather conditions to problems with software. Tests were pushed back in 2019 and again in 2021, and eventually were delayed till 2022.

Who owns Boeing Starliner? ›

Under the contract the Starliners are owned and operated by Boeing, not NASA, and Boeing is free to offer non-CCP commercial flights if they do not interfere with the contracted CCP flights.

What are astronauts called now? ›

Astronaut was originally used to refer to space crews from the United States of America but is now a general term used by many different countries. Russian space crew are called cosmonauts, Chinese space crew are often called taikonauts, and European space crew are called spationauts.

Are astronauts usually pilots? ›

The first NASA astronauts were talented and brave U.S. Air Force test pilots. While there is still a need for astronauts with test pilot backgrounds, most of today's astronauts are engineers, mathematicians and scientists.

Why is Boeing Starliner taking so long? ›

A mission 14 years in the making

Test flights were delayed for several reasons, ranging from unfavorable weather conditions to problems with software. Tests were pushed back in 2019 and again in 2021, and eventually were delayed till 2022.

What was wrong with the space shuttle? ›

An investigation later revealed the dislodged foam had struck Columbia's left wing during launch, damaging the spacecraft's thermal protection system. The issue didn't affect crew members while they spent more than two weeks in space. But heat protection is crucial for the dangerous return home.

Why was the boeing starliner scrubbed? ›

Just about two hours before the launch, Tom Heter III scrubbed the launch of the ULA Atlas V rocket, which was supposed to carry two humans on board for the first time. Officials say there was a mechanical issue described as involving "a liquid oxygen self-regulating solenoid relief valve on the Centaur upper stage."


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