Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is about to begin its journey home after a short stay at the International Space Station (ISS), and NASA will livestream its homecoming.
The spacecraft is set to depart the space station at 2:36 p.m. ET on Wednesday, May 25, before descending to Earth in a parachute-assisted desert landing in New Mexico about four hours later.
Starliner’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission, which launched last Thursday, is a crucial one for Boeing as it seeks to prove the reliability of the spacecraft following an unsuccessful flight in 2019 when it failed to reach the ISS. A second mission was called off in August 2021 after technical problems were discovered shortly before launch.
While the spacecraft was able to dock with the orbital outpost on Friday, it wasn’t smooth sailing as a number of technical issues on its final approach caused the procedure to take about an hour longer than expected.
Once docked, astronauts aboard the ISS were able to open the hatch and enter the spacecraft to collect the 500 pounds of cargo that it brought along. The astronauts could also meet Rosie, a sensor-laden mannequin that traveled aboard the Starliner and which is providing engineers with data about conditions inside the spacecraft during the mission.
Before departing the station, the Starliner will be loaded up with more than 600 pounds of cargo, including Nitrogen Oxygen Recharge System reusable tanks that provide breathable air to station crew members. NASA said the tanks will be refurbished on Earth before being sent back to the ISS on a future flight.
A successful OFT-2 mission will pave the way for a crewed test flight that will take the Starliner major a step closer to becoming part of NASA’s fleet for astronaut missions to and from the ISS.
How to watch
You can watch a livestream of the Starliner’s homecoming by firing up the video player at the top of this page, or by heading to NASA’s website, which will carry the same feed.
NASA’s broadcast will begin at 2 p.m ET. on Wednesday, May 25, and feature the Starliner undocking from the ISS at 2:36 p.m. ET. This initial livestream will end once the spacecraft is clear of the space station and confirmed to be heading home.
Another broadcast will start at 5:45 p.m. ET on Wednesday and feature the Starliner’s deorbit burn at 6:05 p.m. ET, followed by the landing in New Mexico at 6:49 p.m. ET
A Return to Earth news conference discussing the mission will also be streamed from NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston at 9 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
NASA notes that the schedule could change if any last-minute technical issues are discovered, or if the weather takes an unexpected turn at the landing site.