Boeing crew capsule launches to space station on test redo

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (AP) — Boeing’s crew capsule rocketed toward orbit Thursday on a repeat test flight without astronauts, after years of being grounded by that could have doomed the spacecraft.

Only a test dummy was aboard. If the capsule reaches the International Space Station on Friday and everything else goes well, two or three NASA test pilots could strap in by the end of this year or early next for the company’s first crew flight.

It’s Boeing’s third shot at the high-stakes flight demo.

Starliner’s first test flight in 2019 was stricken by software errors so severe that the capsule ended up in the wrong orbit and had to skip the space station. The spacecraft came close to being destroyed as ground controllers hastily cut short the mission.

After dozens of safety fixes, Boeing returned a different capsule to the launch pad last summer. Corroded valves halted the countdown, resulting in another round of repairs.

The drawn-out test flight program has cost Boeing approximately $600 million.