Skip to main content

Wow! International Space Station and Boeing Starliner captured in the same incredible image

Boeing's Starliner (left) during Orbital Flight Test 2 as it approaches the International Space Station, as seen in an image taken from London on May 20, 2022.
Boeing's Starliner (left) during Orbital Flight Test 2 as it approaches the International Space Station. (Image credit: Szabolcs Nagy/Space Station Guys)

Set phasers to stunned: A photographer on the ground spotted a spacecraft 250 miles (400 kilometers) overhead, just about to meet up with the International Space Station (ISS).

Szabolcs Nagy, a space station tracker and photographer in London, captured Boeing's Starliner just 650 feet (200 meters) from the orbiting complex as the uncrewed Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT-2) made a historic docking on May 20.

"I was listening to the conversation between Mission Control and ISS crew whilst taking photos with my telescope in the garden," Nagy, who also created SpaceStationGuys.com (opens in new tab), told Space.com. 

In photos: Boeing's Starliner OFT-2 mission in pictures
Live updates: Starliner's OFT-2 mission

Boeing's Starliner (left) during Orbital Flight Test 2 as it approaches the International Space Station, as seen in an image taken from London by Szabolcs Nagy of SpaceStationGuys.com (opens in new tab) on May 20, 2022. (Image credit: Szabolcs Nagy/Space Station Guys)

"It felt like no other ISS imaging session before," added Nagy, who enhanced his camera's view using a 14-inch Dobsonian telescope with manual tracking, along with a 3x Barlow lens to increase the system's focal length.

See more

OFT-2 successfully met all major objectives as Starliner is seeking to ship astronauts to the space station on future flights. While the spacecraft's mission results are still being judged against metrics with NASA officials, indications so far point to a crew going aboard Starliner later in the year.

Nagy described his photography session as "a totally surreal experience, really." In the moment, he wasn't sure if the two vehicles could fit in a single field of view, but everything was bright enough and close enough to capture a few thousand frames of the encounter, he said. 

As you can see below, this image wasn't the only one he produced during the mission. And in between photography sessions, he was uploading Starliner mission content on his YouTube channel (opens in new tab).

See more
See more

Geraint Jones, a professor and head of the Planetary Science Group at University College London, photographed the spacecraft and station during docking procedures from his location in Guildford, Surrey. Jones snapped his image (opens in new tab) with a handheld camera only an hour's drive southwest from where Nagy stood.

See more

As for Nagy, he was back at his camera during the reentry of Starliner five days later, as the Boeing spacecraft zoomed through the atmosphere en route to a safe parachute landing at White Sands Space Harbor in New Mexico.

"Check out the full video of the event; it was spectacular," Nagy said on Twitter (opens in new tab) May 25, adding, "As I tweet, Starliner is deploying the heat shield. Sooo cool."

See more

Follow Elizabeth Howell on Twitter @howellspace (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) and on Facebook (opens in new tab)

Join our Space Forums to keep talking space on the latest missions, night sky and more! And if you have a news tip, correction or comment, let us know at: community@space.com.

Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell, Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022. She was contributing writer for Space.com (opens in new tab) for 10 years before that, since 2012. As a proud Trekkie and Canadian, she also tackles topics like diversity, science fiction, astronomy and gaming to help others explore the universe. Elizabeth's on-site reporting includes two human spaceflight launches from Kazakhstan, three space shuttle missions in Florida, and embedded reporting from a simulated Mars mission in Utah. She holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, and a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science since 2015. Her latest book, Leadership Moments from NASA, is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday.