Right on schedule Friday morning, an Atlas V rocket launched the Starliner spacecraft into a planned suborbital trajectory. The capsule may not be carrying people on this run, but it is loaded with around 600 lbs of cargo, including supplies and experiment materials, which the astronauts on the ISS will unload before the Starliner undocks and makes its return trip to Earth in about a week. If that goes as planned, SpaceX could be flying astronauts to the space station by next spring.
Boeing's Starliner passenger spacecraft launched smoothly on Friday.
Boeing commentators on NASA TV, which broadcasted live mission coverage, said Starliner had reached a "stable orbit" or "stable position".
Both SpaceX and Boeing are part of the NASA Commercial Crew Program, which aims to bring astronaut launches back to USA soil for the first time since the end of the space shuttle era in 2011. The shuttle program was ended in 2011 and since then astronauts have hitched rides on Russian spacecraft.
Australia records its hottest day. At least for now
This record could be broken again with intense heat expected across most of Australia for Thursday and Friday. Morrison last week made a rare admission that climate change was one of the "factors" behind the fires.
"We started the clock at the wrong time", Mr Chilton explained on Saturday. The test flight is a requirement for the Starliner launch that is an unveiling flight for the first time with astronauts on-board.
The spacecraft, a cone-shaped pod with seven seats, blasted off from Cape Canaveral at 6.36am local time atop an Atlas V rocket from Boeing-Lockheed Martin Corp's United Launch Alliance.
NASA and Boeing say it's too soon to tell whether or not another uncrewed mission will be necessary now to validate the craft's general functions.
Should anything warrant skipping the first attempt at landing tomorrow, NASA and Boeing have a back-up landing opportunity about eight hours after the first.
Bridenstine also speculated that were NASA astronauts actually on board, they would "absolutely" have "been safe", and that they probably could've assisted and overcome the automation error encountered via manual control to save the mission. Instead, it will return to Earth on Sunday, December 22, and land at White Sands. This was an important test for Boeing as they are competing with SpaceX to revive NASA's human spaceflight capabilities. Both companies are now aiming for next year, a time frame reinforced in a statement yesterday from the office of US Vice President Mike Pence, who chairs the National Space Council.