Indian-origin astronaut Sunita Williams' Starliner takes flight as she pilots the spacecraft; all you need to know

Boeing's Starliner, carrying astronauts Sunita Williams and Butch Willmore, launched on its first crewed mission to the ISS after multiple delays and scrubs.

Updated on Jun 05, 2024  |  09:58 PM IST |  38.5K
Sunita Williams - Images via NASA's Youtube Channel and Getty Images
Sunita Williams - Images via NASA's Youtube Channel and Getty Images
Key Highlight
  • Boeing's Starliner successfully launched its first human flight
  • The mission faced and overcame multiple delays and technical issues

After many delays, two scrubs, and some glitches, Boeing's Starliner spacecraft finally pulled out a successful maiden crew flight on Wednesday. This development was a significant milestone for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Indian-origin astronaut is on board

Sunita Williams, an astronaut of Indian origin, flew on the third mission in Starliner. Sunita has trained extensively for this mission with Butch Willmore, the Crew Flight Test Mission Commander. What they had to do was move and connect their Spacecraft autonomously with the International Space Station (ISS), which is more than 400 kilometers above the surface of Earth.

The Starliner Calypso space vehicle was constructed by Boeing under a contract with NASA. Despite multiple delays and technical challenges during its development phase, however, it still managed two uncrewed missions to ISS before this historical one,

Sunita Williams - Images via NASA's Youtube Channel

Many scrubs and challenges

Getting to this point required overcoming several hurdles. On June 1, just four minutes prior to takeoff, a ground launch sequencer failure brought about aborting the mission. There were also failed attempts in May due to a faulty oxygen relief valve and helium leak in the service module.

If all goes according to plan, it will take about 26 hours for the Starliner capsule to reach ISS; after that, it will dock at an orbiting research outpost that is positioned 250 miles above Earth’s landmasses. 

Approximately one week is what Williams and Willmore are expected to spend at ISS, subject to confirmation by NASA officials as they embark on board the Starliner again, which will land using parachutes and airbags in Southwestern deserts of the USA – an unprecedented happening in manned NASA space trips.

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Sunita Williams - Images via NASA's Youtube Channel

Understanding Starliner

NASA needs success in its mission, comprised of calibration experiments aboard the ‘Starliner.’ It represents another concrete step towards bringing crew transfer services back into private hands by shipping astronauts back & forth from ISS. So far, NASA has had to rely on SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft.

Starliner is a reusable crew capsule developed by Boeing under the Commercial Crew Program. It is designed to safely and reliably transport astronauts to the ISS. This capsule can carry up to seven passengers and has an innovative weldless structure, wireless internet connectivity, and tablet technology for its crew interfaces. Moreover, it has a pusher abort system, allowing the crew to escape during ascent and launch.

With reusability of up to 10 missions & six-month turnaround time, Starliner aims to make human spaceflight more cost-effective and accessible. The success of this vehicle would go a long way in enhancing NASA's capabilities while reducing dependence on other spaceships

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It was indeed a turning point in space exploration when the Starliner spacecraft was successfully launched. With experienced astronauts Sunita Williams and Butch Willmore aboard, this mission promises frequent and reliable human spaceflights in the future.

ALSO READ: June's Strawberry Moon: Meaning, significance, and when to witness in 2024

FAQs

Who were the astronauts on the Starliner's maiden human flight?
Sunita Williams and Butch Willmore were the astronauts on this historic mission.

What challenges did the Starliner mission face before launch?
The mission faced delays due to a ground launch sequencer failure, a faulty oxygen relief valve, and a helium leak in the service module.

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About The Author

Shovan has a Masters in Mass Communication and Journalism degree from Calcutta University. He loves to live in the

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