(LEX 18 / AP) — Some LEX 18 viewers in southern Kentucky received an unexpected surprise this morning: the sight of an Atlas V rocket launched from Cape Canaveral, Florida, streaking across the sky.
While the view was stunning, the launch of Boeing’s new Starliner capsule went off course after and won’t dock with the International Space Station during its first test flight.
For some residents in Somerset, London and nearby communities, the sight of something racing across sky at the dawn was at first puzzling.
"I first thought it was an asteroid," said Shawn Edwards, who shared his photos of the rocket with LEX 18.
Cody Burton of London also said he saw the launch on his way to work Friday morning.
The blastoff from Cape Canaveral, Florida, went flawlessly as the Atlas V rocket lifted off with the Starliner capsule.
But a half-hour into the flight, Boeing reported that the capsule didn’t get into the right orbit to reach the space station. The capsule is still in space and will be brought back to Earth, landing in New Mexico as early as Sunday.
The United Launch Alliance rocket blasted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and was visible for at least five minutes, its white contrail a brilliant contrast against the dark sky. The mood quickly turned somber as news of the setback trickled out. NASA officials deferred to Boeing for updates.
“Safe and stable is the important thing right now,” Boeing spokeswoman Kelly Kaplan told reporters.
This was Boeing’s chance to catch up with SpaceX, NASA’s other commercial crew provider that successfully completed a similar demonstration last March. SpaceX has one last hurdle — a launch abort test — before carrying two NASA astronauts in its Dragon capsule, possibly by spring.
A successful Starliner demo could have seen Boeing launching astronauts by summer. But that might not be possible now.