NASA Astronauts Complete Key Boeing Mission Simulation

NASA astronauts Suni Williams and Barry “Butch” Wilmore emerge from the Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout Building at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday, Jan. 31, 2024, as part of an integrated crew exercise simulation for NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT). Photo credit: NASA/Isaac Watson

NASA astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore successfully completed an integrated crew exercise simulation that moves Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft one step closer to its first flight with astronauts to the International Space Station.

Targeted for launch no earlier than mid-April 2024, NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT) will fly Williams and Wilmore to the orbiting laboratory for about up to two weeks. They will evaluate Starliner and its systems before returning to Earth in the Western United States. Liftoff will be aboard a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Completing the simulation Wednesday at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida marks another milestone toward CFT launch. The integrated exercise involved participation from the flight crew, NASA, Boeing, and ULA, and allowed teams to rehearse prelaunch operations beginning roughly four hours before a targeted liftoff. The exercise began with Wilmore and Williams walking through suit-up procedures inside the Astronaut Crew Quarters in NASA Kennedy’s Neil Armstrong Operations and Checkout building.

Following this, they took an elevator down to the ground floor and exited the same double doors they will on launch day where their crew transportation vehicle was waiting to transport them to the launch pad. The crew and support teams then convoyed to the launch pad, where Williams and Wilmore supported operations from the white room – an area at the end of the launch tower’s crew access arm that will provide access to the spacecraft. The remainder of the rehearsal involved the crew traveling back to NASA Kennedy to support from Boeing’s Mission Control Center.

Over the next several weeks, teams will run through additional simulations focused on each phase of the mission. Some upcoming milestones include CFT certification, fueling Starliner with propellants, and stacking Starliner on the Atlas V rocket before rolling out to the launch pad in preparation for liftoff.

Starliner completed two uncrewed flight tests: Orbital Flight Test-2, which launched from Cape Canaveral and completed its space station mission in May 2022, and Orbital Flight Test-1, which provided teams with additional flight data in December 2019. During these two uncrewed missions, the end-to-end capabilities of the spacecraft were successfully tested.

Learn more about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program by following the commercial crew blog, X, and Facebook.

Starliner Parachute System Upgrade Tested Before Crewed Flight

A NASA C-130 cargo aircraft releases a dart-shaped test vehicle above the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground on Jan. 9 to begin the testing sequence for a Boeing Starliner parachute system.
A NASA C-130 cargo aircraft releases a dart-shaped test vehicle above the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground on Jan. 9 to begin the testing sequence for a Boeing Starliner parachute system. Credit: U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground

A modified parachute system for Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program was tested over the Arizona desert on Jan. 9. Parachute deployment and a soft landing of the test article were visually confirmed. Preliminary data analysis of this two-parachute test suggest the primary test objectives were met. Engineering teams will continue to review the results, inspect the test parachutes, and work to complete system certification in the weeks ahead.

In the meantime, NASA and Boeing are proceeding with preparations for Starliner to carry astronauts for the first time to the International Space Station during the Crew Flight Test, currently slated to launch no earlier than mid-April on a mission lasting about 10 days.

A pair of parachutes lower the dart-shaped test vehicle to the ground to conclude the drop test for a modified parachute for the Starliner spacecraft.
A pair of parachutes lower the dart-shaped test vehicle to the ground to conclude the drop test for a modified parachute for the Starliner spacecraft. Credit: U.S. Army Yuma Proving Ground

The drop test, which used a Starliner parachute system attached to a dart-shaped sled the same weight as a Starliner, was performed to confirm the functioning of a redesigned and strengthened soft link joint that is part of the network of lines connecting the parachutes to the spacecraft. The test also validated a change to strengthen one textile joint in the parachute, increasing overall parachute robustness. As with other capsules, Starliner relies on parachutes to land safely when it returns to Earth.

A C-130 cargo aircraft from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Virgina, carried the test article and parachutes high above the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona before releasing them. Engineering teams, CFT astronauts Butch Wilmore, Suni Williams and Starliner-1 astronaut Mike Fincke watched from the drop zone below. The Starliner main parachutes were lifted from the test article using flight-like pilot parachutes before inflating fully to slow the test dart to the same soft-landing velocity experienced by the Starliner spacecraft in flight.

Starliner completed two uncrewed flight tests including Orbital Flight Test-2, which docked to the space station on May 21, 2022.

Follow NASA’s commercial crew blog or CFT mission blog for the latest information on progress. Details about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew on X, and commercial crew on Facebook.

NASA, Boeing Provide Update on Starliner Crew Flight Test

Boeing's Starliner crew ship approaches the space station on the company's Orbital Flight Test-2 mission on May 20, 2022.
Boeing’s Starliner crew ship approaches the space station on the company’s Orbital Flight Test-2 mission on May 20, 2022. Photo credit: NASA

NASA and Boeing teams continue to make progress in preparing for Starliner’s first crewed flight to and from the International Space Station.

In a media teleconference Aug. 8, leaders from NASA and Boeing discussed the path forward for the spacecraft, including work to address two technical issues identified during the agency’s certification process to ensure the system meets crew safety requirements.

The Starliner team expects to have the Crew Flight Test spacecraft ready in March 2024. A specific target launch date will be set closer to spacecraft readiness, and with consideration of the International Space Station, United Launch Alliance, and Eastern Range availability.

A replay of the teleconference is available on NASA’s YouTube channel.

NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams are assigned to fly Starliner and United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket to the International Space Station. The duo will remain docked at the orbiting laboratory for about two weeks to evaluate the new spacecraft and its systems before returning to Earth in the Western United States.

Following a successful first flight with crew, NASA will complete work to certify the Starliner system as an operational crew system for long-duration crew rotation missions to the space station.

Follow NASA’s commercial crew blog for the latest information on CFT progress. Details about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found by following the commercial crew blog, @commercial_crew on Twitter, and commercial crew on Facebook.

NASA, Boeing Prepare for Starliner Flight This Summer

The Starliner team works to finalize the mate of the crew module and new service module for NASA's Boeing Crew Flight Test that will take NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams to and from the International Space Station.
The Starliner team works to finalize the mate of the crew module and new service module for NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test that will take NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams to and from the International Space Station. Photo credit: Boeing/John Grant

NASA and Boeing now are targeting no earlier than Friday, July 21, for the agency’s Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT) to the International Space Station, pending coordination for the U.S Eastern Range availability.

The new target date provides NASA and Boeing the necessary time to complete subsystem verification testing and close out test flight certification products and aligns with the space station manifest and range launch opportunities.

The goal of CFT is to test the end-to-end capabilities of the Starliner system with crew onboard, including the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, from prelaunch to docking and undocking to landing and recovery. Following a successful test flight, Boeing will work to finalize operational readiness for its post-certification missions and NASA will begin the final process of certifying the Starliner spacecraft and systems for regular, crewed missions to the space station.

Certification Process
Approximately 90% of the certification products required for the flight test are complete. NASA and Boeing anticipate closure on remaining CFT certification products this spring after ongoing verification testing of several subsystems is complete, including testing on the spacecraft’s backup manual flight mode for added redundancy in cases of emergency.

Starliner Status
The Starliner spacecraft build is complete. The team is now working through final interior closeouts of the spacecraft and wrapping up integrated testing. The loading of cargo apart from some late-stow items also is complete. The next major hardware milestones are specific to the launch campaign timeline, such as spacecraft fueling and rolling out to the launch site.

Atlas V Status
NASA completed its rocket readiness assessment, which evaluates all CFT launch vehicle segment flight critical items prior to integration activities. All rocket hardware is at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, awaiting processing ahead of rocket stacking at the launch site.

Crew Readiness
The NASA astronauts who will fly on CFT recently completed the critical Crew Equipment Interface Test. Conducted in two parts during February and March, the test allowed astronauts to perform hands-on training with the tools, equipment and hardware they will use on orbit. In the first part, they worked with the Starliner team to perform in-cabin checkouts, including adjusting the spacecraft seats, inspecting spacecraft interfaces, examining cargo, and conducting floor panel and side hatch operations. The second part of the test included the astronauts maneuvering inside the cabin with cargo installed in the spacecraft.

For more details, listen to an audio replay of the March 29 media teleconference on NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test.

Find out more about NASA’s Commercial Crew Program at:

https://www.nasa.gov/commercialcrew

NASA, Boeing Provide Update on First Crewed Starliner Flight Test

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft was moved into the Hazardous Processing Area at the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Feb. 8, 2023, in advance of power up and fueling operations. NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test will demonstrate the end-to-end capabilities of the Starliner system to carry astronaut to and from the International Space Station.
The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft was moved into the Hazardous Processing Area at the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Feb. 8, 2023, in advance of power up and fueling operations. Photo credit: NASA

NASA and Boeing held a mission overview media teleconference Friday to provide a status update on the first astronaut flight test of the company’s CST-100 Starliner to the International Space Station.

During the call, managers shared mission progress and discussed upcoming milestones ahead of NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT), which is targeted to launch no earlier than mid-to-late April to the microgravity laboratory.

A replay of the teleconference is available on NASA’s YouTube channel.

CFT is the final flight test prior to regular crewed missions to the space station on the next-generation system. For CFT, the Starliner spacecraft will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, returning approximately eight days later in White Sands, New Mexico. The flight will carry two NASA astronaut test pilots, Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Suni Williams, on the demonstration flight to prove the end-to-end capabilities of the Starliner system.

Following a successful test flight with astronauts, NASA will begin the final process of certifying the Starliner spacecraft and systems for regular crew rotation flights to the space station.