First NASA Boeing Starliner Spacecraft Launch With Crew Is Happening Today, How To Watch

hero nasa boeing starliner launch
NASA and Boeing are scheduled to launch the first Starliner crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS) later today. The spacecraft is scheduled to launch aboard a ULA Launch Atlas V rocket, along with astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams at approximately 12:25pm ET.

It has been a rough go for both NASA and Boeing in launching the first crewed mission onboard the Starliner spacecraft. Boeing was awarded a $4.2B contract in 2014 to build the spacecraft as a vehicle to transport astronauts and payload on routine missions to ISS. Around the same time, SpaceX was also awarded a $2.6B contract to develop its Dragon spacecraft, which was able to conduct its first crewed flight test in 2020. While behind schedule and $1B over budget, NASA and Boeing are hopeful today will be the day for Starliner to finally lift off with crew onboard.

A previous launch attempt on May 6, 2024, was scrubbed due to a suspect oxygen relief valve on the Atlas V rocket’s Centaur second stage. Since that time, the team has removed and replaced the valve, and completed an assessment of Starliner’s performance and redundancy after discovering a small helium leak in the spacecraft’s service module. Boeing reported earlier today that it confirmed the small helium leak rate remains acceptable for the flight, and is in fact better than previously observed.

Astronaut Butch Wilmore is the commander of today’s mission. He previously was a fighter pilot, US Navy captain, and completed two other spaceflights for Expedition 41 in 2014, and for STS-129 for space shuttle Atlantis in 2009. Wilmore has logged 178 days in space ahead of today’s mission.

Suni Williams is the pilot of the Starliner spacecraft and is the first woman to fly on the first flight of a crewed spacecraft. Williams is a retired Navy captain and completed two spaceflight missions, Expeditions 14/15 in 2006, and 32/32 in 2012. She has logged 322 days in space ahead of today’s mission.

While hopefully today’s launch goes off without any issues, pre-launch ran into a snag. The space station’s urine recycling system broke earlier this week, and NASA had to make room for a new pump onboard Starliner. Unfortunately for Wilmore and Williams, it was their luggage that got sacrificed. According to NASA, there are spare clothes and hygiene items aboard the space station, and the two astronauts will have those at their disposal.

Today’s launch of the Boeing Starliner can be watched via the live feed above on X/Twitter, or via NASA’s website.

*Update 6/1/2024 12:33pm ET: The launch has officially been scrubbed due to an automatic hold of the ground launch sequencer with less than four minutes to liftoff. The team is currently looking at a 24 hour window for next attempted launch.