CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. (NEWSnet/AP) — Boeing is set to launch astronauts to International Space Station for NASA.

The company's long-awaited astronaut demo is slated for liftoff Monday night.

It’s the first flight of Boeing’s Starliner capsule with a crew on board.

NASA turned to U.S. companies for astronaut rides after the space shuttles were retired. SpaceX has made nine trips since 2020. Boeing has managed two unoccupied test flights.

Boeing's Starliner capsule is about 10 feet tall and 15 feet in diameter. It has a capacity of seven, but NASA crews typically will number four. 

No one was aboard Boeing’s two previous flights. The first, in 2019, was hit with software trouble and the capsule couldn’t reach the station. A second attempt in 2022 docked successfully. In summer 2023, weak parachutes and flammable tape had to be fixed or removed.

NASA astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore are retired Navy captains who previously spent months aboard the space station. Williams, 58, of Needham, Massachusetts, is a helicopter pilot.Wilmore, 61, of Mount Juliet, Tennessee, is a former combat pilot. 

Starliner will launch on United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.

Starliner should reach the space station roughly 26 hours after launch. It will remain docked for eight days, undergoing checkout before landing in the American West.

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