Boeing Is Launching Starliner Thursday. Here’s What to Know.

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Boeing’s Starliner is designed to carry up to seven passengers.

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Gregg Newton / AFP via Getty Images

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Boeing is about to test dubbed its reusable space capsule starliner, It’s a chance for the company to generate some positive feedback from investors and industry watchers.

The uncrewed launch is scheduled for Thursday, May 19, at 6:54 pm ET. As always with space launches, that timeline is weather permitting. If all goes according to plan, the craft will leave Earth from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

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Investors and space enthusiasts can watch the launch on a Boeing website or on NASA TV, Here’s what to know to get ready to watch, along with some recent history.

The Ship

Starliner is designed to carry up to seven passengers—or cargo—to low-earth orbit and back. Boeing (ticker: BA) says it is designed to be reused up to 10 times and has an innovative weldless structure.

Thursday’s launch is orbital test number two.

The Competition

One of Starliner’s jobs is to carry US astronauts and cargo to and from the International Space Station. SpaceX also has some of that business and has completed several successful crewed missions using its Dragon space capsule. Dragon, which also carries cargo, has been to the ISS 31 times.

The Rocket

Starliner will sit atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, ULA is a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin (LMT). The Atlas launch system isnt reusable. Dragon, meanwhile, launches at a reusable SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket.

Recent Attempts

Boeing suffered a setback in August 2021 when a test flight was scrubbed because of a valve sticking issue. Boeing says the root cause of the problem was the formation of a nitrate, and the investigation into its cause is complete.

A Word to Watch For

Investors tuning into any live feeds can listen for technicians and officials talking about “nominal” performance. Nominal, in this setting, means satisfactory performance within expected operating ranges. It’s a good thing.

The Stock

Starliner is, obviously, part of Boeing’s space and defense franchise. Overall, that segment generated $5.4 billion out of a total $14 billion in first-quarter sales. While space and defense are an important of Boeing, the Starliner remains a small part of the total. Investors seem to be watching the commercial aerospace franchise more closely these days.

Still, Boeing investors could use some good news. Boeing shares have been badly beaten up recently. The stock is down about 36% this year and off about 50% from its 52-week high of more than $258 a share, hit in June. Investors remain concerned about cash flow after a trio of problems: the 737 MAX grounding, the Covid-19 pandemic, and a pause in 787 deliveries due to quality problems discovered in the manufacturing process.

Write to Al Root at [email protected]


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