Boeing's crewed Starliner mission could finally launch to ISS in July

Though the much-delayed astronaut mission could face further delays due to pending parachute tests.
Chris Young
Boeing's Starliner ahead of OFT-2.
Boeing's Starliner ahead of OFT-2.


SpaceX's historic Demo-2 crewed mission to the ISS in 2020 finally ended NASA's almost decade-long reliance on Russian launch vehicles to take humans to the International Space Station (ISS).

Boeing could soon end NASA's reliance on SpaceX, the only company capable of launching astronauts from US soil.

That's because Boeing has just set a date for the first crewed launch of its CST-100 Starliner capsule. The company aims to launch NASA astronauts Sunita Williams and Barry "Butch" Wilmore to the ISS on July 21. The launch date, though, is partly dependent on the success of upcoming parachute tests.

The new launch date for Boeing's crewed Starliner mission

Launch dates are, of course, never truly set in stone, and the numerous delays in the development of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner crew capsule mean it's worth taking that July date with a pinch of salt.

The Starliner crew capsule is years behind schedule and has racked up a $4.3 billion budget. What's more, Starliner's first crewed launch, the Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT), was already scheduled to launch in February and March before being pushed back to the new July date.

At a press briefing this week, Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, told reporters Starliner is "largely ready for flight". However, certification work is still required before launch, including ground tests related to the capsule's parachute system. According to a Gizmodo report, Stich stated that NASA has "no issues or concerns" with the parachute systems, though the test is required to ensure safety.

Boeing's CFT mission to launch aboard ULA's Atlas V

If all goes according to plan with the parachute test, ground teams will begin the fueling process just over a month before the scheduled launch date. The CFT mission will take off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Last May, on Boeing's second attempt, an uncrewed Starliner capsule flew to – and docked with – the ISS for the first time for the Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT-2) mission. In 2019, the previous mission, OFT, successfully launched but failed to dock with the ISS after an anomaly caused it to fly into an incorrect orbit. The CFT mission will last a minimum of eight days, though the mission time may be extended.

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