KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — The rocket that will blast off from our Space Coast ferrying a commercial spacecraft to the International Space Station is now at the pad.
- Starliner capsule set to launch at 6:36 a.m. ET Friday
- Astronauts are set to be aboard the capsule in coming year
- RELATED: Florida Rocket Launch Schedule
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Boeing's Starliner capsule is set to launch early Friday morning from Florida's Space Coast. It's considered an end-to-end test — from launch to the capsule's return to Earth a week later.
"It helps us figure out how to work together and get ourselves ready for our crewed mission coming up," says NASA Commercial Crew Program Manager Kathy Lueders at a Tuesday afternoon news conference from Kennedy Space Center.
It’s valuable data for the safety of NASA astronauts who will be on board in the coming year, headed back to orbit for the first time from American soil since the shuttle program shut down in 2011.
NASA, Boeing, and United Launch Alliance are the public-private partners in the mission.
The flight will test the performance of the Atlas V rocket, the Starliner spacecraft, its in-orbit docking with the ISS, and the landing of the capsule.
"I always say these demonstrations are a gift," Lueders said. "We get to see how the integrated system works."
"(We're) making sure that we have really sound processes and procedures, and the team is really ready to move forward and go into the crew flight test," Boeing Commercial Crew Program Manager John Mulholland said.
All of the data will be studied to make sure future human missions are safe.
There will be a "passenger" on board the capsule: "Rosie the Astronaut," named after the famed World War II figure. The test dummy will collect data to study the effects of the flight on a real person.
After years of work, mission leaders are excited the flight test is almost here.
"We are looking forward to a really short, quick, and successful mission," Mulholland said.
The road to getting our people launching again on American rockets, in our own spacecraft from our own soil, is opening back up. Ultimately, space officials seek to end our dependence on Russia to fly our astronauts to the ISS, paying more than $70 million a seat each flight.
"The Russians have been great partners in getting our astronauts to and from the space station since the shuttle stopped flying," Josh Barrett of Boeing Communications told Spectrum News. "But there's something about getting in the car and driving to Florida and watch people go to space, and we are going to be able to do that again."
Starliner is scheduled to dock at the orbiting outpost just after 8 a.m. ET Saturday. It will return to Earth with 600 pounds of research samples onboard, assisted by parachutes to land at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, a week later in the early morning hours of December 28.
The Atlas V is set to launch from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station's Pad 41, sted 40, at 6:36 a.m. ET Friday morning. Because the capsule is headed to the ISS, it will be an instantaneous launch with no window.