Prior to today's launch, both Boeing and SpaceX were targeting crewed test flights in 2020. Updates on the flight tracker on the NASA website said it was "flying on its own, embarking on its inaugural flight to the International Space Station".
The capsule was launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida at 6:36 a.m. without any problems.
SpaceX's got now one last obstacle, represented by a launch abort test, before transporting two NASA astronauts in its Dragon capsule, next year.
Expect some unbelievable images this morning from the Cape as the ULA test launch with the Starliner capsule will be just about 30 minutes before sunrise. NASA was, as a result, forced to turn to Russia's Soyuz spacecraft, an alternative that costs the agency $86 million a seat (as of 2019). While NASA is eager to reduce its dependence on Russian spacecraft to transport astronauts, it also wants to ensure that vehicles like Starliner and SpaceX's Crew Dragon are trustworthy before there are people aboard.
The Boeing Company's Starliner lifted off Friday morning atop an Atlas Five rocket.
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Should anything warrant skipping the first attempt at landing tomorrow, NASA and Boeing have a back-up landing opportunity about eight hours after the first.
NASA and Boeing officials said during the Saturday conference call that they were surprised extensive testing before the flight did not turn up any issues.
"We do have a healthy spacecraft", said Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator. One of their craft exploded last April during a test firing. "It appears as though the mission elapsed timing system had an error in it", he said.
If successful, Sunday's landing will mark the first time a United States orbital space capsule designed for humans landed on land. The likelihood of favorable conditions for a Friday launch is 80 percent, NASA declared on Thursday, citing a forecast from the US Air Force 45th Weather Squadron. The spacecraft burned too much fuel, which will make it too hard for NASA and Boeing to attempt to dock with the ISS.