Watch Boeing's Starliner space capsule shoot for a landmark launch after several delays

This could be our second ticket to space.
Brad Bergan
Boeing's Starliner pre-flight (left), and while docking with the International Space Station (right).1, 2

Second time's the charm.

That's the general sentiment for Boeing, which is attempting another launch of its new passenger aircraft, the CST-100 Starliner, all the way to low-Earth orbit on Thursday afternoon, according to a tweet from NASA.

Its second attempt at an uncrewed launch, the mission (dubbed OFT-2) could signify the first step for an entirely new launch system on which to loft humans into space.

If it makes it, Boeing's CST-100 Starliner will rendezvous with the International Space Station after rocketing through the atmosphere at roughly 6:54 PM EDT, according to a tweet from the firm.

Be sure to watch the live stream (featured below) as the countdown continues.

Boeing's Starliner will become 'dissimilar redundancy' for NASA

Boeing designed the Starliner to become integral to NASA's Commercial Crew Program — which aims to employ private companies capable of developing capable spacecraft that can loft NASA's astronauts to the ISS and back. As of writing, SpaceX is already doing this, constantly, but as in other human endeavors that come at great cost, it's good to have options.

NASA calls this "dissimilar redundancy", but defines it on the basis of having a backup, in case one or the other launch system fails.

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Today's launch attempt is the second for Boeing, since its last shot in 2019, when a cluster of software snags compounded by a drop in communications stopped the Starliner capsule from reaching its designated orbital trajectory. This forced Boeing to bring it home sooner than desired. There was another launch attempt in summer 2021, but that was scrubbed hours before liftoff because of uncooperative propellant valves.

But after years of toiling away on the seemingly endless list of hiccups and snags, the Starliner is finally ready for a second shot. Again.

Boeing's Starliner aims to rendezvous with the ISS

As of writing, takeoff was scheduled for 6:54 PM EDT from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, in Florida. But there's a special Easter Egg in the Boeing Starliner capsule for space enthusiasts — a mannequin dubbed Rosie the Rocketeer, named in honor of Rosie the Riveter seated in the spacecraft. She (or it? You decide) is equipped with the same blue-hued pressure suit that real astronauts will wear.

To analyze how a launch aboard Boeing's Starliner may affect the human body, Rosie is also equipped with a wide variety of sensors set to gather data on the flight. But this won't be Rosie's first rodeo — she was lifted to space on the first OFT mission, way back in 2019.

An artistic depiction of Starliner docking with the ISS. Source: Boeing

"We're also very, very jealous because this is human spaceflight, and Rosie the mannequin is the one that gets to take the trip instead of us," said Barry "Butch" Wilmore, a NASA astronaut slated to ride the Starliner one day, in a press conference, according to an initial report.

Starliner will liftoff atop an Atlas V rocket, built and run by United Launch Alliance. Once it's in the air, the rocket will take 15 minutes to reach outer space, after which Starliner will detach. This is when the real fun begins for Rosie, as Starliner makes a series of thrust maneuvers using its four thrusters, to lift itself into the optimal trajectory for meeting up with the ISS. This is where things went wrong in 2019, so everyone's fingers are crossed that Boeing's Starliner will pass this unsurpassed threshold, this time. Go, Rosie!

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