The Boeing Starliner space capsule rolled out of Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on November 21. Boeing attached Starliner to the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that will launch the passenger capsule into space on December 17. The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft will be launched from the Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
It’ll return to Earth shortly after, using a system of parachutes and airbags to ensure a soft landing at one of five possible locations in the United States. There will be no passengers on this mission, but if the test flight is successful, NASA astronauts will be able to fly to the International Space Station next year.
The Starliner CST-100 spacecraft manufactured for NASA is part of the space agency’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP). CPP aims to facilitate the development of a U.S. commercial crew space transportation capability with the goal of achieving safe, reliable, and cost-effective access to and from the International Space Station and low-Earth orbit.
Since the closer of the Space Shuttle Program in 2011, Russian Soyuz spacecraft have been used for this purpose and cost $ 85 million for a seat, The Verge reports. Starliner was invented to reduce this.
In addition to Boeing, SpaceX is participating in the program with its Crew Dragon spacecraft, and the two companies are competing with each other to bring people first into space. SpaceX is well on its way, but a Crew Dragon has been damaged in a test, so it’s easy for its rival now to overtake during the December flight test.
However, SpaceX is in a good position as Crew Dragon is a modified version of SpaceX’s cargo Dragon, which has already been flying to the station for years. But both companies need to get certified before bringing people into space, which is unlikely to happen before summer 2020.