WASHINGTON, May 3 (Reuters) – Boeing is poised to send the first Starliner space capsule with a crew of humans into orbit next week, giving it a long-delayed chance to score a badly needed win as it struggles to compete with Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

The CST-100 Starliner test mission, a years-delayed milestone after more than $1 billion in cost overruns, will ferry two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) in a final demonstration before the spacecraft can be approved to fly routine space trips under the space agency’s commercial crew program.

Two NASA astronaut test pilots, Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Suni Williams, will fly on CFT to the space station, where they will live and work for approximately eight days. Mission and crew support teams and the CFT astronauts are continuing with preparations and training. NASA and Boeing teams recently conducted an integrated crew exercise to rehearse the prelaunch timeline and responses to various launch event scenarios. In the coming weeks, Wilmore and Williams will don their spacesuits and climb aboard their crew module to check out the vehicle systems and interfaces that support their health and safety.

For the crewed flight, Boeing’s Starliner will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Following a successful CFT mission, NASA will begin the final process of certifying the Starliner spacecraft and systems for crew missions to the space station. Regular commercial crew rotation missions enable NASA to continue the important research and technology investigations taking place aboard the orbiting laboratory. Such research benefits people on Earth and lays the groundwork for future exploration. As part of Artemis, NASA will send astronauts to the Moon to prepare for future human exploration of Mars. Inspiring the next generation of explorers – the Artemis Generation – ensures America will continue to lead in space exploration and discovery.

Photo NASA

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