First Ever Manned Boeing Starliner Test Flight on New Atlas Booster Successful

Starliner launch
A screenshot of the Boeing Starliner manned launch from Cape Canaveral today. (Image credit: screen shot via SpaceFlightNow on YouTube)

Astronauts Barry Wilmore and Sunita Williams Make History on Way to Dock with ISS.

For the first time ever, a manned Boeing Starliner spacecraft has achieved operational test orbit with two astronauts on board. Retired U.S. Navy Captain, Commander Barry “Butch” Wilmore and spacecraft pilot Sunita “Sunny” Williams launched from pad 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 1052 EDT (1452 UTC) on Wednesday, June 5, 2024.

The launch took place in ideal weather and proceeded on schedule throughout the launch sequence.

The Boeing Starliner was boosted into sub-orbital altitude by an Atlas V rocket booster. The Atlas V rocket descends from the legacy of the original Atlas launch vehicle used in the Gemini space program of the 1960s. The Atlas family of launch vehicles were developed from the SM-65 Atlas ICBM, the first operational intercontinental ballistic missile launched by the United States in 1957.

While the service life of the SM-65 Atlas ICBM was short, the long service of the Atlas booster family as a spacecraft launcher has achieved noteworthy success.

At two minutes prior to launch, mission commander Butch Wilmore was heard saying, “Let’s get going, let’s push it to the heavens.” The day time launch was visually spectacular as the spacecraft pierced broken cumulus on a plume of fire with the ripping sound of the Atlas RD-180 motor and two solid rocket motors echoing as Starliner rolled to a heads-up attitude for the astronauts.

The Starliner crew inside the spacecraft just prior to launch today. (Image credit: screenshot via SpaceFlightNow on YouTube)

The flight crew continued to throttle-up and broke the sound barrier prior to SRB burnout and Booster Engine Cut-Off or “BECO”. The spacecraft initially flew a low, sub-orbital trajectory to maximize safety and recovery capabilities in the event of a pre-orbital anomaly.

Boeing Starliner lifts off successfully from Cape Canaveral today. (Image credit: screenshot via SpaceFlightNow on YouTube)

The last time an Atlas series rocket booster flew a crewed spacecraft into orbit was the Mercury Atlas-9 mission 61 years ago on May 15, 1963. During that mission, the Atlas-9 lifted the Gemini Faith 7 capsule into orbit crewed by (then) U.S. Air Force Major Gordon “Gordo” Cooper.

This was the third attempt to launch a manned Starliner mission after two prior attempts were scrubbed due to technical anomalies. The first attempt was aborted on May 6, 2024 due to irregularities with a rocket valve and a helium leak. A subsequent launch attempt was made on June 1, 2024 but was scrubbed due to a ground launch sequencer failure. Today’s successful launch is a victory for Boeing set against the backdrop of ongoing challenges in their commercial aviation sector.

Today’s Starliner test flight will culminate with a rendezvous with the International Space Station (ISS) on Thursday, June 6, 2024, when astronauts Wilmore and Williams will begin a week-long stay aboard ISS.

About Tom Demerly
Tom Demerly is a feature writer, journalist, photographer and editorialist who has written articles that are published around the world on,, Outside magazine, Business Insider, We Are The Mighty, The Dearborn Press & Guide, National Interest, Russia’s government media outlet Sputnik, and many other publications. Demerly studied journalism at Henry Ford College in Dearborn, Michigan. Tom Demerly served in an intelligence gathering unit as a member of the U.S. Army and Michigan National Guard. His military experience includes being Honor Graduate from the U.S. Army Infantry School at Ft. Benning, Georgia (Cycle C-6-1) and as a Scout Observer in a reconnaissance unit, Company “F”, 425th INF (RANGER/AIRBORNE), Long Range Surveillance Unit (LRSU). Demerly is an experienced parachutist, holds advanced SCUBA certifications, has climbed the highest mountains on three continents and visited all seven continents and has flown several types of light aircraft.