Boeing's Starliner spacecraft is on the launch pad

Boeing's "Starliner" spacecraft will take off to the International Space Station (ISS) in the coming hours, CNN reported.

The flight, which is a final test before the Starliner begins regular work for NASA, is crucial for the American aerospace giant. Its reputation has recently suffered due to safety issues with some of its passenger planes.

The Starliner was first ordered ten years ago by the US space agency, but had a bumpy road to completion, with unexpected setbacks and numerous delays. Boeing is eager to end the saga.

Astronauts Butch Wilmore and Sunny Williams will blast off from Cape Canaveral aboard the capsule.

Starliner will be launched into orbit by an Atlas V rocket manufactured by United Launch Alliance, a joint venture between Boeing and Lockheed Martin.

Wilmore and Williams, veterans of the Navy space program, have been to the ISS twice, once on a shuttle and then aboard a Russian Soyuz spacecraft.

"It will be like coming home," Williams said.

Regarding the Boeing spacecraft, Wilmore said, "Everything is new. Everything is unique. I don't think any of us ever dreamed that we would be associated with the first flight of a brand new spacecraft."

For NASA, the stakes are also high: Having a second option for human spaceflight in addition to SpaceX's Dragon spacecraft is "really important," stressed Dana Weigel, the agency's ISS program manager. /BGNES