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Boeing Starliner lift off NASA astronauts Barry Wilmore and Sunita Williams to ISS

U.S. astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams left Earth in a new Boeing spaceship, after a string of delays and engineering problems that spanned a decade. 

Following two scuttled launch attempts over the past month, the third try appeared to be the charm with a seamless countdown. Starliner‘s first crewed test flight blasted off at 10:52 a.m. ET from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. It is the sixth time in history NASA astronauts had launched on a new spacecraft.

Following two scuttled launch attempts over the past month, the third try appeared to be the charm with a seamless countdown. Starliner‘s first crewed test flight blasted off at 10:52 a.m. ET from Kennedy Space Center in Cape Canaveral, Florida. It is the sixth time in history NASA astronauts had launched on a new spacecraft.

If the flight goes as planned, Wilmore and Williams will reach the International Space Station on Thursday and remain at the lab, about 250 miles above the planet, for about a week. Williams is the first woman to pilot a new orbital spacecraft. 

For the ride home, rather than plop the astronauts into the ocean as SpaceX does, Boeing will bring the astronauts home to the Army’s White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. A system of parachutes and air bags should cushion the capsule’s desert landing.

NASA hired Boeing and SpaceX to build spaceships to carry astronauts to and from the International Space Station in 2014. While SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule went into service four years ago and has since ferried at least 50 people into orbit, Boeing’s Starliner has yet to pass muster. The legacy company has struggled to resolve a series of issues with the spacecraft. 

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