Watch ULA assemble Atlas V rocket ahead of Boeing Starliner astronaut test flight (video)

The long-awaited Crewed Flight Test (CFT) of Boeing's Starliner spacecraft is finally upon us.

A United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket is scheduled to launch Starliner with NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams on a shakedown mission to the International Space Station (ISS) on May 6. This will be Starliner's third flight, but the capsule's first with a crew aboard. 

With the spacecraft day's away from its crewed debut, ULA has released a short video highlighting how Starliner's Atlas V launch vehicle was stacked and integrated with the spacecraft.

Related: How to watch Boeing's 1st Starliner astronaut launch webcasts live

United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket topped with Boeing's Starliner spacecraft. (Image credit: ULA via YouTube)

ULA posted the video on X, formerly Twitter, a week before Starliner's scheduled launch, with the caption, "Reigniting Atlas' legacy of launching humans to space, ULA is using an #AtlasV rocket to launch the Crew Flight Test. Check out how the Atlas V rocket was stacked ahead of next week's launch."

With Starliner ready for flight, the video lays out ULA's process for assembling and stacking the Atlas V rocket, mating it with the Starliner spacecraft, rolling the stack to SLC-41, and other significant milestones leading up to the moment of launch.

Atlas V is powered by two RD-180 rocket engines, paired for this flight with two solid rocket boosters (SRBs). The launch vehicle's first stage stands 106.5 feet (32.5 meters) tall, and is joined with its Centaur upper stage, propelled by a pair of RL-10A rocket engines. Combined with Starliner, the whole rocket stands at  172 feet (52.4 meters).

The trio are stacked inside ULA's vertical integration facility (VIF) at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, in Florida, and are scheduled to roll out the SLC-41 at 10 a.m. this Saturday, May 4. 

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket carrying the Starliner Orbital Flight Test 2 spacecraft lifts off from Space Launch Complex 40 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on May 19, 2022. (Image credit: United Launch Alliance)

ULA's video also points out some of the fueling and crew boarding procedures during the mission's launch countdown. Wilmore and Williams will arrive at the launchpad about three hours prior to liftoff, aided by ULA's "Blue Team," as mission operators run through prelaunch checklists leading up to liftoff. 

Starliner is scheduled to launch Monday, May 6, at 10:34 p.m. EDT, and will rendezvous with the ISS May 8, at 12:48 a.m. EDT (0648 GMT). During the shakedown flight, Wilmore and Williams will test the gamut of Starliner's systems, spending about 10 days on the space station before returning to Earth.

This mission will be Starliner's third flight. In 2019, the first of Starliner's uncrewed test flights failed to complete its mission of rendezvousing with the ISS due to software issues. Another launch in 2022 managed to meet all NASA and Boeing's major objectives for the spacecraft. However, after discovering the flammable nature of the tape used around much of Starliner's internal wiring, the crewed launch was further delayed.

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Josh Dinner
Writer, Content Manager

Josh Dinner is's Content Manager. He is a writer and photographer with a passion for science and space exploration, and has been working the space beat since 2016. Josh has covered the evolution of NASA's commercial spaceflight partnerships, from early Dragon and Cygnus cargo missions to the ongoing development and launches of crewed missions from the Space Coast, as well as NASA science missions and more. He also enjoys building 1:144 scale models of rockets and human-flown spacecraft. Find some of Josh's launch photography on Instagram and his website, and follow him on Twitter, where he mostly posts in haiku.

  • DrRaviSharma
    Best wishes for Sunita Williams and Butch Willmore

    This is a serious human space mission that has been slow in proving and called a Crew Flight Test also indicates more than normal risks as the astronauts are being asked to do failure simulation tasks.

    Our motto during Apollo Missions was "fail, fail, failsafe” meaning if Primary System Fails, and if Secondary System Fails then the Tertiary System should Fail only in a SAFE mode.

    Since I have not studied the ULA history of testing and especially with this first combination of Human rating of Centaur, Delta and Starliner with May 6 launch is the Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission for Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. The Spacecraft with astronauts itself is being flown for the first time!

    I have lived through Apollo, Skylab, Space Station and Space Shuttle era of human Space missions and having participated and tracked and modified future missions and in Analyses of Apollo 13 mission in real-time and in providing NASA comments on Columbia within 24 Hours of the mishap, I am hoping all to be open and communicative to ensure full ascent to ISS and also during first descent to Earth on land, a first for NASA.

    Yes Boeing history goes on from Apollo to date and it is one of two Aircraft producers worldwide that keeps us safe in the skies, yet this time there is a long gap in their crewed flights and we wish them a pathbreaking success.

    (Dr. Ravi Sharma, Ph.D. USA)
    NASA Apollo Achievement Award
    ISRO Distinguished Service Awards
    Former MTS NASA HQ MSEB Apollo
    Former Scientific Secretary ISRO HQ
    Ontolog Board of Trustees
    Particle and Space Physics
    Senior Enterprise Architect
    SAE Fuel Cell Tech Committee voting member for 20 years.