Updated 2:15 p.m. Eastern after post-launch briefing.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is in orbit on its first crewed flight after two recent launch scrubs and years of development delays.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida at 10:52 a.m. Eastern June 5 on the Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission. Starliner separated from the Centaur upper stage 15 minutes after liftoff and completed an orbital insertion burn with its own thrusters 16 minutes later, placing the spacecraft into low Earth.

“With Starliner’s launch, separation from the rocket and arrival on orbit, Boeing’s Crew Flight Test is right on track,” Mark Nappi, vice president and program manager of Boeing’s commercial crew program, said in a company statement shortly after orbital insertion.

At a post-launch briefing, Nappi and Steve Stich, NASA commercial crew program manager, said at a post-launch briefing that the spacecraft was in good condition. One minor issue is that a sublimator, which uses water for thermal control during launch and reentry, used more water than expected during launch. Stich said there is a backup system to refill the water tank. “It was good to get this data from this flight and understand it.

The spacecraft is scheduled to dock with the International Space Station at about 12:15 p.m. Eastern June 6. The spacecraft will remain at the station until at least June 14, when it will undock and land several hours later at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico.

On board Starliner are NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams. At the briefing, Nappi and Stich said they had not heard much from the astronauts since reaching orbit about the performance of the spacecraft. “They’ve been really focused on clocking through a bunch of objectives, get the spacecraft set up for orbit,” Stich said, such as tests of manual control of the spacecraft.

While Starliner is in free flight, there is no live video from inside the spacecraft, although video is being recorded and can be downlinked after Starliner docks with the ISS. Nappi said that the ability to provide live video from inside the spacecraft, like what is available on SpaceX Crew Dragon mission, will be added, but that will take a couple of flights.

In addition to Wilmore and Williams, Starliner has about 360 kilograms of cargo on board. That includes a new pump for a urine reprocessing system on the International Space Station added to the spacecraft last week after the existing pump on the station failed. The 70-kilogram pump is taking the place of two suitcases of clothes and hygiene supplies.

This was the third launch attempt for the CFT mission. The first attempt May 6 was scrubbed about two hours before the scheduled liftoff when an oxygen relief valve in the Centaur upper stage started oscillating. ULA rolled the rocket back to its integration building to replace the valve.

While that work was underway, Boeing investigated a helium leak in one thruster in Starliner’s service module. The company and NASA concluded that the thruster could fly as-is, but in that process discovered what the agency called a “design vulnerability” in the spacecraft’s propulsion system that required development of a new backup model to ensure the spacecraft could perform a deorbit burn should a rare combination of failures occur.

The second CFT launch attempt June 1 was halted a little less than four minutes before liftoff. ULA determined that a power supply in a ground computer rack malfunctioned, and replaced and retested that system. That work pushed the launch back to June 5.

The launch comes after years of development delays with the spacecraft, which suffered problems ranging from faulty software and corroded valves to parachute components with inadequate safety margins and flammable tape used in spacecraft wiring. Those problems required Boeing to fly two uncrewed test flights rather than one as originally planned.

Boeing received a $4.2 billion fixed-price contract in September 2014 to complete development of Starliner and fly six operational missions to ferry crews to and from the ISS. SpaceX, which received a $2.6 billion contract at the same for its Crew Dragon spacecraft, launched its first crewed mission, Demo-2, in May 2020. That company is now on its eighth operational mission to the ISS.

Both NASA and Boeing officials said the launch was worth the delays. “I know it’s really easy to lose patience as you’re waiting for launches to happen,” said Ken Bowersox, NASA associate administrator for space operations, at the briefing, but “today’s launch was worth waiting for.”

“We talk to our team a lot about ignoring a lot of stuff you read. We focus on the positive,” Nappi said of criticism of Starliner’s delays and problems. He said that he’s received a “barrage of texts and emails” congratulating him on the launch. “I can’t tell you how good that feels for our Starliner team.”

“I’m smiling, believe me,” a straightfaced Nappi added.

The launch was also a milestone for ULA, as it was the first time the company launched a crewed mission. Tory Bruno, president and chief executive of ULA, noted at the briefing that he has been a part of nearly 450 launches. “I’m pretty sure I’ve seen everything, but I have to tell you there’s nothing like this,” he said.

Wilmore and Willams congratulated ULA after the launch “for becoming part of the human spaceflight club,” Nappi said. “I think we need to cut his tie or something.” After the briefing concluded, Stich, wielding a pair of scissors, cut Bruno’s tie.

Jeff Foust writes about space policy, commercial space, and related topics for SpaceNews. He earned a Ph.D. in planetary sciences from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a bachelor’s degree with honors in geophysics and planetary science...