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 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.
NASA and Boeing teams are preparing for a flight test no earlier than mid-April in which the Starliner spacecraft will carry two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.
Teams have made significant progress in resolving technical issues identified during the agency’s flight certification process. Following a successful drop test earlier this month in which recent modifications to Starliner’s parachute system were validated, NASA and Boeing are working to perform final analysis of the test data and complete overall system certification ahead of Starliner’s first crewed flight. This standard NASA process is designed to independently verify Starliner’s parachute system meets crew safety requirements and is expected to continue over the next six to eight weeks.
Meanwhile, Boeing completed removal of P213 tape that may have posed a flammability risk in certain environmental conditions. Boeing removed more than 17 pounds, or roughly 4,300 feet, of the material from the Starliner crew module. For areas in which removal of the tape carried an increased risk to Starliner hardware, Boeing applied tested remediation techniques such as overwrapping the P213 tape with another non-flammable, chafe-resistant tape, and installing fire breaks on wire harnesses. The agency worked to clarify the properties and safe usage guidance relative to P213 tape in the NASA Materials Usage Agreements database to prevent a similar misapplication from occurring across industry in the future.
Additionally, major integrated flight operations exercises are underway. Mission support teams recently completed a two-day undock to landing mission dress rehearsal with recovery personnel on the ground at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. Teams simulated Crew Flight Test procedures and spacecraft sequences starting with pre-undock powerup and continuing through undock, entry, landing, and crew recovery. The exercise provided an additional training opportunity for NASA and Boeing to practice Starliner’s return to Earth in a high-fidelity environment before the flight.
Teams from ULA (United Launch Alliance) are preparing the Atlas V rocket hardware for processing and spacecraft integration. Boeing is targeting completion of Starliner assembly at the end of January. The upgraded parachutes were delivered and installed on the spacecraft, along with Starliner’s forward heat shield and ascent cover. Prior to fueling operations, following final installation of thermal protection system blankets and internal closeout work, Boeing will begin flowing a nitrogen purge into the Starliner’s service module to ensure ambient moisture does not permeate into the propulsion isolation or active thermal control system valves. In the weeks ahead, NASA and Boeing will work to identify any remaining work before loading Starliner propellant.
The next couple of months teams will:
work to complete overall Crew Flight Test certification;
put the finishing touches on the Starliner spacecraft, which is already joined to its service module;
run simulations of operational conditions to rehearse every phase of the mission with the crew, flight controllers, and ground operations teams;
fuel the spacecraft with propellants for its onboard thrusters for in-space maneuvering;
stack the ULA Atlas V rocket and Starliner spacecraft before rolling them to the pad at Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida;
and work through detailed systems reviews, culminating with a flight readiness review in the days before launch to verify the system and teams are ready.
Starliner’s Crew Flight Test will launch NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams to the orbiting laboratory for a stay of one to two weeks before returning them to a landing in the southwest United States. The mission will mirror the tasks of regular crew rotation flights for Boeing’s Starliner under contracts with NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
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.
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.
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.
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.”