When And Where To See The New ‘Starliner’ Spacecraft Launch In Prime-Time Thursday As SpaceX Gets Some Orbital Competition
SpaceX could be about to get some competition in low-Earth orbit.
This week sees NASA and Boeing finally launch Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) to the International Space Station. Delayed since July 2021 due to technical glitches, the launch will see Boeing’s CST-100 “Starliner” spacecraft make its second trip to space.
This mission will be uncrewed, though the plan is for Starliner to take NASA astronauts to low-Earth orbit just as SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft already does.
Both spacecraft are part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which began way back in 2010 and has seen both SpaceX and Boeing produce spacecraft to prevent NASA from having to rely on Russia’s Soyuz spacecraft to reach the ISS.
Crew Dragon has been taking astronauts to the ISS on official crew rotation missions since November 2020, but Boeing’s Starliner is yet to join the party.
A failed Orbital Flight Test in December 2019 was followed by the OFT-2 mission in July 2021 being scrubbed after some unavoidable delays and then issues with oxidizer valves that failed to open.
Starliner is tentatively scheduled to take three astronauts to the ISS in March 2023, though only if this week’s uncrewed test flight goes flawlessly. Only then will Starliner be certified by NASA for regular flights with astronauts to and from the space station.
This rescheduled OFT-2 mission will see Starliner launch at 6:54 p.m. EDT on Thursday, May 19, 2022 on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
NASA TV launch coverage on YouTube, the NASA app and the agency’s website will begin at 6 p.m. EDT and will also air a post-launch news conference at 9 p.m. EDT.
Starliner should reach orbit about 31 minutes after its launch and is scheduled to dock to the space station at 7:10 p.m. on Friday, May 20.
It’s effectively a cargo mission as well as test flight. It will be carrying over 500 pounds of NASA cargo and crew supplies to the space station and return to Earth with nearly 600 pounds of cargo.
OFT-2 will see Starliner autonomously dock with the ISS and deliver cargo and crew supplies for NASA. After five to 10 days in orbit Starliner will undock and returning to Earth, parachuting down on land in the western U.S.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.