NASA, Boeing Teams Achieve Milestone Ahead of Crewed Flight

NASA's Boeing Crew Flight Test AMR rehearsal
From left, Starliner Flight Crew Integration Manager Tony Ceccacci, and NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams participate in a mission rehearsal at Boeing’s Avionics and Software Integration Lab in Houston. Photo credit: Boeing/Steven Siceloff

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.”

Briefings, Interviews Set for NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 Mission

NASA's SpaceX Crew-6 astronauts
The four crew members who comprise NASA’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission are seated inside the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft during a training session at the company’s headquarters in Hawthorne, California. From left are Mission Specialist Andrey Fedyaev, Pilot Woody Hoburg, Commander Stephen Bowen, and Mission Specialist Sultan Al Neyadi. Photo credit: SpaceX

A pair of news conferences on Wednesday, Jan. 25, at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston will highlight the agency’s SpaceX Crew-6 mission to the International Space Station in February. The mission is NASA’s sixth crew rotation flight involving a U.S. commercial spacecraft carrying crew for a science expedition aboard the microgravity laboratory.

First up, a mission overview news conference at noon EST, followed by a crew news conference at 2 p.m. Both will air live on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.

The Crew-6 mission will carry NASA astronauts Stephen Bowen and Warren Hoburg, as well as UAE (United Arab Emirates) astronaut Sultan Alneyadi, and Roscosmos cosmonaut Andrey Fedyaev. Crew members also will be available for individual interviews after 3:30 p.m.

The Falcon 9 rocket, with Dragon Endeavour spacecraft atop, scheduled to launch no earlier than Feb. 26 from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

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