Boeing Co's (NYSE: BA) Starliner space craft is set for its first-ever flight into space this week, with NASA targeting a Friday launch for the vessel's maiden mission, an uncrewed trip to the International Space Station.
Data gathered on the unmanned mission will be used by NASA as part of the process of certifying Boeing's ship for future missions carrying astronauts to and from the space station as part of the space agency's Commercial Crew Program.
The flight is part of the effort to have public-private partnerships take over launching astronauts from the government space program.
Manned Launch Eyed For 2020
Boeing and NASA are hoping to scheduled a crewed Starliner launch sometime next year.
“Mainly, the focus of this flight is to prove out ... the spacecraft’s ability to get to the International Space Station and dock safely, transfer the cargo and then safely return,” John Mulholland, the general manager of Boeing's commercial crew program, said in a statement.
NASA is shooting for a 6:36 a.m. launch on Friday, Dec. 20, from Cape Canaveral in Florida for the flight test of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner.
The ship will be carried by an Atlas V rocket and should reach orbit about 30 minutes into flight, with docking at the space station expected on Saturday.
The Starliner is to carry about 600 pounds of crew supplies and equipment to the space station and bring back some research samples. It's scheduled to make a parachute-assisted landing Dec. 28 at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.
First Launches From US Since Shuttle Retired
While it's the first spaceflight in the program for Boeing, it is the second company to launch as part of the program.
Privately held SpaceX's Dragon vehicle launched in March on its unmanned test and last week docked at the ISS on its 19th uncrewed space station resupply mission.
If Boeing and SpaceX are able to carry astronauts to the International Space Station starting next year, they will be making the first orbital human space flights to launch from U.S. soil since the end of NASA's Space Shuttle program in 2011.
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Photo courtesy of NASA Kennedy via Wikimedia.
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