This is a key launch on the way to a crewed flight, but there isn't anyone on board this time.
The Boeing Company, an American corporation that designs, manufactures, and sells airplanes, rockets, satellites, et al, will be launching a milestone test flight today, on Friday, to the International Space Station. Then, it will remain in the station until December 27 before it returns to Earth.
Nicole Mann, one of three astronauts slated to fly on Boeing's first crewed flight test, told the news conference: "We are looking forward to flying on Starliner". Boeing and SpaceX have been paid since 2014 by NASA to develop taxis for astronauts to provide round trips between the United States and the station (ISS).
Instead it's been hitching lifts on Russian rockets.
"It appears the mission was using mission elapsed timer that was not the mission the vehicle was on", Jim Chilton, senior vice president of the Space and Launch division of Boeing, said at a press conference. It'll now be recovered by Boeing and NASA and examined, with more data gathered from its onboard computers.
"NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine congratulated the space agency and Boeing teams on the successful landing".
But because of the mishap, the station docking was scrapped, and Boeing and NASA chose to bring the spacecraft home as soon as possible. "The vehicle was not on the right timer, we don't know why it wasn't".
The initial launch was considered "flawless" by experts, but the issues add questions for the company that was hoping to launch astronauts into space by summer.