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Boeing's Starliner finally launches with NASA astronauts on board

The mission - a test flight for NASA - comes after years of delays and setbacks for the beleaguered company

Boeing's Starliner spacecraft finally carried a pair of astronauts into orbit Wednesday, a key milestone in the company's troubled quest to provide NASA with a spacecraft capable of flying crews to the International Space Station.

An Atlas V rocket, operated by the United Launch Alliance, a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin, lifted off from its pad at 10:52 a.m., lighting up the sky of Florida's Space Coast in what was heralded as a triumphant beginning to a test of how the spacecraft operates with a crew on board.

The successful launch - after a month of delays - marks only the beginning of the journey. The autonomous spacecraft will have to catch up to the space station, traveling at 17,500 mph, and park itself at one of the orbiting laboratory's docking ports. Along the way, NASA astronauts Sunita "Suni" Williams and Barry "Butch" Wilmore, the first to ever fly on Starliner, will take manual control of the vehicle to see how it performs.


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