NASA, Boeing, and ULA (United Launch Alliance) are readying the rocket that will launch the first crewed flight of the Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.
The ULA Atlas V rocket was moved into the company’s Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, which starts the preparations for its stacking operations ahead of NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test.
The rocket’s main stage was transferred from the nearby Advanced Spaceflight Operations Center to the integration facility Wednesday, Feb. 21, where it will await integration with the rocket’s upper Centaur stage and Starliner. The spacecraft will carry NASA astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore to the orbiting laboratory for a short stay of about one to two weeks before returning to a landing site in the southwest United States.
The mission will test the end-to-end capabilities of the Starliner system, including launch, docking, and a return to Earth. After successful completion of the mission, NASA will begin the final process of certifying Starliner and its systems for crewed rotation missions to the space station.
NASA and Boeing are targeting no earlier than late April for launch. Starliner completed two uncrewed flight tests, including Orbital Flight Test-2, which docked to the space station on May 21, 2022, and provided valuable data leading up to its first crewed flight.
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:
During CEIT, Wilmore and Williams, along with NASA astronaut and backup test pilot Mike Fincke, performed hands-on training with the tools, equipment, and hardware they will use on orbit. 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 is scheduled to occur in early March, and will include the astronauts maneuvering inside the cabin with cargo installed in the spacecraft.
Wilmore and Williams are slated to launch from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s Space Launch Complex-41 in Florida no earlier than mid-to-late April 2023. They will fly aboard Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, powered by a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
The Crew Flight Test will demonstrate the ability of Starliner and the Atlas V rocket to safely carry astronauts to and from the space station. 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.
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.
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.
NASA and Boeing recently completed a full start to finish integrated mission dress rehearsal for the company’s CST-100 Starliner flight with astronauts to the International Space Station, which is scheduled to launch in April 2023.
The Crew Flight Test, or CFT, will launch NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Suni Williams on Starliner – atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket – from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.
During several days at Boeing’s Avionics and Software Integration Lab (ASIL) in Houston, the ASIL Mission Rehearsal (AMR) combined tests of software and crew systems, along with operations teams. The completion of the end-to-end mission rehearsal clears a path for the next CFT milestones, including working with the crew and flight controllers on various integrated failure scenarios and a series of flight-day parameter updates that will become available as the team nears launch day.
“Testing is a key component to the success of a human space program,” said NASA Commercial Crew Program Software Certification Manager Chad Schaeffer. “The AMR and the integrated failure scenarios are excellent examples of the rigorous testing teams are performing on Starliner. The rehearsal went well and reflects the continued improvement in executing this test and helps pave the way to the much anticipated first crewed flight.”
During the rehearsal, Wilmore and Williams, along with fellow NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, worked through mission milestones in coordination with mission operations teams located inside flight control rooms at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Starliner engineering teammates also supported from Boeing’s Mission Control Center located in Florida.
The crew members worked in a flight deck simulator networked to control rooms and avionics, operating the same software that will be used during CFT. They effectively demonstrated the software is ready to operate Starliner during prelaunch, launch, docking to the space station, undocking, and the return to Earth through landing.
The AMR provided end-to-end testing of hardware configuration, software, communications, preparation configuring hardware and software, routing communications channels, and mapping simulated sensor data. Similar testing was performed ahead of NASA and Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) uncrewed mission in early 2022.
“We began conducting AMRs with the creation of OFT-2, and the integrated team has continued to get more efficient with each rehearsal,” said Aaron Kraftcheck, Starliner avionics software integration and test manager. “With the participation of our astronauts in this CFT AMR, we have enhanced the team dynamics, and continued to learn and adjust, which is what AMR is all about.”