The new Starliner capsule from US aerospace giant Boeing will make its long-delayed crewed test flight to the International Space Station (ISS) tonight.

This will be a historic moment for Boeing. In 2014, the company signed a contract with NASA to build a manned spacecraft at the same time as SpaceX.

While SpaceX spacecraft are already in use and have made 12 flights to the ISS, Boeing has only made two test launches of the Starliner.

The drop-shaped "CST-100 Starliner" is scheduled to be launched with two astronauts.

SEVEN-PERSON CREW

The Starliner is designed to carry seven crew members, including senior NASA astronauts, retired US Navy captain Barry "Butch" Wilmore and 58-year-old Sunita "Sunni" Williams, a former Navy aviator and test pilot.

Although Starliner is designed to fly autonomously, the crew will be able to assume control of the spacecraft if necessary.

The launch will be the first crewed trip into space using an Atlas rocket since the 1960s.

If all goes as planned, the capsule will reach the space station 400 kilometers above orbit after a flight of about 26 hours.

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A RIVAL TO ELON MUSK

Success on this mission is vital before NASA receives final approval to begin routine operational flights under its commercial crew program.

If successful, the Boeing Starliner spacecraft will become an alternative option for carrying astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).