The people's voice of reason

Boeing's Starliner has successfully launched

On Wednesday, NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams were safely launched into Earth orbit on the first crewed flight test aboard Boeing's Starliner spacecraft. The Boeing Starliner is on a mission that will take it to the International Space Station (ISS).

Much of the work on Starliner was done at the United Launch Alliance (ULA) facility in Decatur. ULA is a jointly owned and operated subsidiary of Boeing and Lockheed.

U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama) said on X, "Congratulations @ulalaunch on the successful launch of the Atlas V rocket. Once again, Alabama is leading the way in space exploration and research."

Congressman Dale W. Strong (R-AL05) said on the social media platform X, "Boeing,@ulalaunch, &@NASA on the first successful crewed launch of the Starliner Spacecraft. This launch was the result of collaboration and years of dedicated work, much of which took place right here in North Alabama."

The astronauts lifted off at 9:52 a.m. CDT Wednesday on a ULA Atlas V rocket built in Alabama from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on an end-to-end test of the Starliner system. ULA's rocket engines are built by Blue Origin at their new factory in Huntsville.

Bill Nelson is the administrator of NASA.

"Two bold NASA astronauts are well on their way on this historic first test flight of a brand-new spacecraft," said Administrator Nelson. "Boeing's Starliner marks a new chapter of American exploration. Human spaceflight is a daring task – but that's why it's worth doing. It's an exciting time for NASA, our commercial partners, and the future of exploration. Go Starliner, Go Butch and Suni!"

For years after the Space Shuttles were retired, NASA astronauts had to catch rides on Russian spaceships to go to the ISS. Thanks to NASA's Commercial Crew Program that is no longer the case and both crewed and uncrewed missions can be carried out by American built and designed spacecraft – of which Starliner is the state of the art.

The flight test will help validate the transportation system, launch pad, rocket, spacecraft, in-orbit operations capabilities, and return to Earth with astronauts aboard as the agency prepares to certify Starliner for rotational missions to the space station.

Starliner has previously flown two separate uncrewed missions, including a test to and from the space station. There has also been a pad abort demonstration with the spacecraft.

Mark Nappi is the Vice President and program manager of Boeing's Commercial Crew Program.

"With Starliner's launch, separation from the rocket, and arrival on orbit, Boeing's Crew Flight Test is right on track," said Nappi. "Everyone is focused on giving Suni and Butch a safe, comfortable, ride and performing a successful test mission from start to finish."

During Starliner's flight, Boeing will monitor a series of automatic spacecraft maneuvers from its mission control center in Houston. NASA teams will monitor space station operations throughout the flight from the Mission Control Center at the agency's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

Steve Stich is the manager of the Commercial Crew Program at NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston.

"Flying crew on Starliner represents over a decade of work by the Commercial Crew Program and our partners at Boeing and ULA," said Stich, manager. "For many of us, this is a career-defining moment bringing on a new crew transportation capability for our agency and our nation. We are going to take it one step at a time, putting Starliner through its paces, and remaining vigilant until Butch and Suni safely touch down back on Earth at the conclusion of this test flight."

Starliner will autonomously dock to the forward-facing port of the station's Harmony module at approximately 11:15 p.m. Thursday, June 6, and remain at the orbital laboratory for about a week.

Wilmore and Williams will help verify the spacecraft is performing as intended by testing the environmental control system, the displays and control system, and by maneuvering the thrusters, among other tests during flight. They will then join the Expedition 71 crew of NASA astronauts.

NASA's massive Space Flight System (SLS) is the successor to the Apollo missions and will be used to return humans to the Moon by the end of the decade and will launch humans to Mars by 2040. Starliner and the other Commercial Crew vehicles are the successors of the Space Shuttles and will be the work horses of man's work in space in Earth orbit for decades to come.

Thousands of Alabamians at Boeing, at ULA, at NASA, at Blue Origin, and at dozens of other contractors working with them are working on advancing the American space program to new heightsTo connect with the author of this story, or to comment, email


Reader Comments(0)