Boeing Starliner launch

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Live Reporting

Edited by Brandon Livesay

All times stated are UK

  1. Thanks for watching along with us

    Brandon Livesay

    US reporter

    Video content

    Video caption: Moment of liftoff for Boeing Starliner’s first crewed mission

    The Boeing Starliner is orbiting and on its way towards the International Space Station (ISS).

    So, we are finishing up our live coverage of today’s launch.

    It was the first time the Starliner spacecraft has flown with people onboard – Nasa astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams.

    Starliner
    is expected to dock at the ISS at approximately 12:15 ET (17:15 BST) on 6 June, and the astronauts will be there for about a week.

    So far, the spacecraft’s mission has been a success. Remember, it took several years to get to this point because of various engineering issues.

    Moments before lift-off, Commander Wilmore called out to thank all those who had worked to make the mission possible. Alluding to past difficulties, he said: “When the going gets tough – and it often does – the tough get going, and you have.”

    Starliner’s pilot Suni Williams chimed in: “Go ‘Calypso’! (the name of the capsule). Take us to space and back.”

    For the full story on today’s Starliner launch, check out this article by BBC’s science correspondent Jon Amos.

    Thanks for following along with us.

  2. ‘Human spaceflight is a daring task’

    Let’s check in with Nasa to see how the launch team is feeling.

    “Two
    bold NASA astronauts are well on their way on this historic first test flight
    of a brand-new spacecraft,” NASA Administrator Bill Nelson says.

    “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!”

    Mark Nappi, vice president and program manager of Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program, says the test flight is “right on track”.

    “Everyone is focused on
    giving Suni and Butch a safe, comfortable, ride and performing a successful
    test mission from start to finish.”

  3. Inside the crew module

    Jon Amos

    Science correspondent

    Boeing Starliner's crew module

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    Boeing’s new commercial crew
    capsule is called – to give it its full name – CST-100 Starliner.

    The CST stands for “Crew Space Transportation” and the 100 signifies the Kármán
    line, which is the most widely recognised definition for where outer space
    begins.

    This is at an altitude of 100km (62 miles). From a distance, Starliner may look like any other space capsule, including the
    famous Apollo command modules.

    But while the physics of spaceflight may not
    have changed in 50 years, the technologies and
    innovations under the skin of today’s space vehicles very definitely have, and Starliner was built to include state-of-the-art subsystems.

    The capsule is 4.6m wide and 5m tall (16.5ft by 15ft) when you include the
    “service module” that sits behind Starliner.

    So, it’s
    wider than the Apollo modules and can accommodate up to seven astronauts, although
    it will probably fly routinely with just four.

    Boeing says Starliner
    is reusable with refurbishment; one capsule could fly multiple
    missions.

  4. The rockets that powered the Starliner

    Jon Amos

    Science correspondent

    This is an important mission
    too for United Launch Alliance, the company that operates the rocket that took Starliner skyward.

    ULA is perhaps best known for
    putting up some of America’s key military and national security satellites and
    has also sent many of Nasa’s science missions on their way, including the big
    Mars rovers, Curiosity and Perseverance.

    But this will be the first time ULA
    (it was established in 2006) has launched astronauts.

    The company’s Atlas-V
    rocket is one of the most reliable in the business.

    It’s a two-stage vehicle.
    The booster, the bottom segment, fired for about 4 minutes and 30 seconds
    to get Starliner off the ground.

    A couple of strap-on
    solid rocket motors assisted this operation.

    The top segment, the Centaur
    upper-stage, then performed the second part of the flight profile, firing on
    until almost 12 minutes after liftoff.

    Shortly after that,
    Starliner was jettisoned.

    It used its own
    thrusters to fully insert itself into orbit, ready to begin its chase of the
    ISS.

    Starliner graphics

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  5. Why Nasa is using Boeing’s Starliner

    Richard Hollingham

    BBC Future

    When the Space Shuttle Atlantis rolled to a stand on the runway at Kennedy Space Centre in 2011, ending 30 years of the manned shuttle programme, it left Nasa with a problem.

    Without enough government funding to build a replacement while the shuttle was still flying, the US had no means of launching its astronauts into orbit.

    The only way to fly a crew to its own orbiting laboratory on the International Space Station (ISS) was to pay some $80m (£64m) for a seat in a cramped Russian Soyuz capsule.

    It seemed extraordinary to many that the nation that had landed men on the Moon, built and serviced – in orbit, no less – the Hubble Space Telescope and assembled a giant space station was relying on a 45-year-old spacecraft built by its Cold War rival.

    But Nasa had a long-term plan – the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) – and, after 13 years, the first crewed launch of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft means it is finally being fully realised.

    You can read more about how we got to today’s launch in this article.

  6. Watch: The moment Boeing’s Starliner launched

    Video content

    Video caption: Moment Boeing Starliner launches first crewed mission

    The Starliner is now safely in orbit and is on its way toward the International Space Station.

    You can watch the moment of launch in the video above.

  7. Starliner’s launch in pictures

    Starliner launches

    Copyright: Reuters

    Boeing Starliner flies through clouds

    Copyright: Reuters

    Members of the NASA Boeing Crew Flight Test Butch Wilmore (L) and Suni Williams (R), both of the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), walk out of the Neil A. Armstrong Operations

    Copyright: EPA

  8. How the space race moved to the private sector

    Jon Amos

    Science correspondent

    You can
    probably trace the origin of Starliner back to 2003
    and the tragic loss of space shuttle Columbia.

    That triggered a dramatic shift
    in direction for America’s human spaceflight programme.

    US President George W Bush
    decided to retire the shuttle (which took until 2011) and build a new space
    vehicle capable of reaching the Moon.

    This opened up commercial opportunities
    for the routine transportation of cargo and astronauts to low-Earth orbit.

    It’s
    hard to overstate the importance of the new approach for the US space agency.

    It meant that Nasa would move from being the owner and operator of astronaut vehicles
    to being a purchaser of spaceflight services. Just like a company might
    outsource its IT needs or payroll, Nasa would outsource transportation to and
    from the space station.

    To extend the taxi analogy, Nasa would simply “hail the
    cab” when it needed one.

    The two companies that won the competition to provide
    a crew taxi service were SpaceX, with its Dragon capsule, and Boeing, with Starliner.

  9. The moment of launch

    Boeing Starliner launch

    Copyright: NASA

    This picture shows the moment of launch, which happened a few minutes ago.

    So far everything seems to be operating as expected and the Boeing Starliner is approaching orbit.

  10. Astronauts to test spacecraft before docking at ISS

    Jon Amos

    Science correspondent

    We’re expecting
    this mission to last about a week.

    Starliner should
    arrive at the station roughly 24 hours after lift-off.

    That’s a sedate journey;
    it’s possible to get to the ISS in just a few hours.

    But astronauts Wilmore and Williams
    plan some in-flight testing.

    One of these tests is trying out manual control of
    the capsule.

    Although Starliner is an automated
    craft, the duo will want to know what it’s like to manoeuvre Starliner should an emergency require it.

    We’ve seen such
    situations on other vehicles where, for example, automated docking sensors have
    failed and the crew have had to manually drive their capsule to the attachment
    point on the station.

  11. BreakingBoeing Starliner spacecraft launches

    We have liftoff.

    The Boeing Starliner has launched with astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams onboard.

    You can watch the flight by pressing the play button at the top of this page.

  12. Liftoff in five minutes

    Jon Amos

    Science correspondent

    Boeing’s Crew
    Flight Test (CFT) mission is scheduled to launch in about five minutes (10:52 EDT / 14:52 GMT / 15:52 BST).

    • You can watch the launch live by pressing the play button at the top of this page.

    It will go up on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas-V
    rocket from Cape Canaveral’s Space Launch Complex (SLC) 41, one of the historic
    pads just along the Space Coast from Nasa’s Kennedy Space Center.

    We haven’t seen astronauts go up from these neighbouring pads since Apollo 7 in
    1968.

    As ever with missions to the ISS, rockets have to
    leave Earth pretty much on the button if they want to give their capsules a
    chance of catching the orbiting laboratory in a reasonable time.

    If the
    designated launch time is missed because of a technical glitch or bad weather,
    we’ll have to come back another day.

  13. Who are the astronauts onboard?

    Jon Amos

    Science correspondent

    Astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams

    Copyright: EPA

    Today’s
    astronauts, Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams, are among the
    most experienced fliers in Nasa’s astronaut corps.

    Wilmore has been to space
    twice before. He was the pilot on a short-duration Atlantis space shuttle
    mission to the ISS in 2009, and then returned to the station for a stay of six
    months in 2014–2015, traveling up and down in a Russian Soyuz capsule.

    During
    that latter tour, he commanded the ISS.

    Williams has spent a lot of time living
    off Earth. She’s had two long-duration ISS missions, in 2006–2007 and 2012, for
    a total of 322 days in space. She’s also clocked up a great deal of time
    outside the station, spacewalking.

    Williams has undertaken seven EVAs (Extra Vehicular
    Activities), totalling 50 hours and 40 minutes. Boeing could not have asked for
    two more capable astronauts to fly Starliner’s first
    crewed mission.

  14. The first flight with crew on board

    Jon Amos

    Science correspondent

    Welcome to the BBC’s live coverage of what’s expected to be a big day in the long history of the Boeing aerospace company.

    It’s about to launch its new Starliner crew capsule – with two Nasa astronauts aboard, Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams – on a mission to the International Space Station (ISS).

    The conical ship has flown twice before, but never with people aboard. What you’re about to witness is the last major test for the vehicle before it goes into operational service, acting as a regular taxi to and from the ISS in the years ahead. But there are other issues at stake here today.

    It can’t have escaped your notice that Boeing has had a few problems recently, and these haven’t only affected its aeroplanes.

    Starliner, too, has had quite the tortuous path to get this point.

    A flawless ascent to orbit in the coming hours is a must. Stay with us to see what happens.

  15. Boeing Starliner set to launch

    Brandon Livesay

    US reporter

    After several years of setbacks and delays, Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft is set to launch in under an hour.

    With two veteran Nasa astronouts on board, the Starliner will attempt to blast off from the Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida and soar to the International Space Station.

    • Liftoff is scheduled for 10:52 ET (15:52 BST) and you can watch it live by pressing the play button at the top of this page.

    If it is successful, Boeing will become the second private firm able to provide crew transport to and from the ISS, alongside Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

    Onboard the mission to the ISS will be Nasa astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams.

    This coverage is all about the live stream – so press play, sit back, and watch this potentially historic moment in space travel.

    Boeing Starliner information

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