Boeing Starliner Launch: Everything You Need to Know About the Upcoming Crewed Flight

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Discover all the details about Boeing’s upcoming crewed flight of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Learn about the mission, launch schedule, how to watch live coverage, and the significance of this pivotal event for Boeing and NASA. Stay updated on the latest developments and challenges Boeing has faced leading up to this historic launch.

Boeing Starliner Launch
Boeing Starliner Launch

Boeing is gearing up for the fifth attempt at the crewed test flight of its CST-100 Starliner spaceship. This reusable space capsule is scheduled to launch atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket at approximately 12:25 p.m. Eastern time on Saturday. This launch comes 26 days after the originally planned date of May 6, which was postponed due to technical issues.

Delays and Technical Issues

The original launch was delayed because of a valve issue on the ULA rocket and a helium leak in the Starliner’s propulsion system. These issues also caused further delays on May 17, 21, and 25. After ensuring that all systems are in optimal condition, astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams are set to embark on this mission to the International Space Station (ISS), where they will remain for about two weeks.

How to Watch the Launch

NASA TV will cover the launch starting at 8:15 a.m. Eastern time on Saturday. A news conference discussing the flight will begin at 1 p.m. on Friday, providing further insights into the mission and its objectives.

A Milestone for Starliner

This launch marks the first crewed flight for the Starliner. Boeing’s initial uncrewed test of the capsule took place in 2019, but it failed to dock with the ISS due to a technical error. The second test, planned for August 2021, was also delayed because of valve problems. It eventually launched in May 2022 and successfully docked with the ISS, paving the way for the upcoming crewed test flight. Initially scheduled for July 2023, the crewed flight was postponed due to a parachute issue.

Competition with SpaceX

Starliner’s development is part of a broader effort by NASA to transport U.S. astronauts to the ISS without relying on Russian spacecraft, a reliance that began in 2011 after the Space Shuttle’s final mission. In 2014, NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX for this task. SpaceX, however, won the race by successfully ferrying its first set of astronauts to the ISS in 2020 with its Dragon capsule.

Boeing’s Challenges

For Boeing, a successful Starliner mission is not just about competing with SpaceX but also about restoring its reputation. Boeing’s stock has fallen 34% this year, significantly underperforming the S&P 500 by almost 44 percentage points. This decline is primarily attributed to the Jan. 5 emergency-door-plug blowout on a 737 MAX 9 jet operated by Alaska Air Group. The incident raised concerns about Boeing’s manufacturing quality, led to decreased cash flow, and invited more scrutiny from aviation regulators.

Financial Performance

Boeing’s commercial airplane division reported sales of $4.7 billion in the first quarter of 2024, along with an operating loss of $1.1 billion. For comparison, in the first quarter of 2018, before the pandemic and the 737 MAX issues, the division generated $13.7 billion in sales and $1.5 billion in operating profit. Boeing’s defense, space, and security business, which includes the Starliner project, generated about $7 billion in sales in the first quarter of 2024, with an operating profit of $151 million, primarily driven by defense contracts.

Importance of the Mission

The upcoming Starliner mission is crucial for Boeing’s space division and overall reputation. A successful mission would demonstrate Boeing’s capability to safely transport astronauts to the ISS, a significant milestone for the company’s space ambitions. It would also help in regaining trust among investors, stakeholders, and the general public, which has been shaken by recent technical issues and safety concerns.

The Path Forward

Boeing’s journey with the Starliner has been fraught with challenges, but the company remains committed to its role in advancing space exploration. The successful completion of this crewed test flight would solidify Boeing’s position as a key player in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. It would also open doors for future missions and collaborations, reinforcing Boeing’s long-standing legacy in aerospace innovation.


The launch of Boeing’s Starliner marks a significant moment in the company’s history and the broader context of U.S. space exploration. With astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams on board, the mission aims to achieve a successful docking with the ISS, demonstrating the reliability and capability of the Starliner capsule. As the world watches this launch, Boeing hopes to overcome past setbacks and usher in a new era of space travel, contributing to humanity’s ongoing journey into the final frontier.

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