NASA, SpaceX Adjust Next Space Station Crew Rotation Launch Date

SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts (from left) Matthias Maurer, Thomas Marshburn, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron pose for a portrait during preflight training at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California.
SpaceX Crew-3 astronauts (from left) Matthias Maurer, Thomas Marshburn, Raja Chari and Kayla Barron pose for a portrait during preflight training at SpaceX headquarters in Hawthorne, California. Photo credit: SpaceX

NASA and SpaceX now are targeting 2:43 a.m. EDT Saturday, Oct. 30, for the agency’s Crew-3 launch to the International Space Station. The date adjustment provides two consecutive launch attempts for the crew rotation mission with the backup time and date of 2:21 a.m. Sunday, Oct. 31.

NASA astronauts Raja Chari, mission commander, Tom Marshburn, pilot, and Kayla Barron, mission specialist and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Matthias Maurer, also a mission specialist, will launch on the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

Crew-3 astronauts are scheduled for a long-duration science mission aboard the orbiting laboratory, living and working as part of what is expected to be a seven-member crew.

Launch on Oct. 30 would have Crew-3 arriving at the space station early the next day after an approximate 22-hour journey for a short overlap with the astronauts who flew to the station as part of the agency’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission.

Return of Crew-2 with NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, is currently planned for early-to-mid November.

Missions teams continue to target April 15, 2022, for the launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-4 mission to the space station for a six-month science mission aboard the microgravity laboratory.

Crew-4 will be commanded by Kjell Lindgren with Bob Hines as pilot, both NASA astronauts. ESA astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti will be a mission specialist and command the station’s Expedition 68 crew, while the remaining crew member has yet to be named. Crew-3 astronauts are set to return to Earth in late April 2022 following a similar handover with Crew-4.

Starliner Returns to Factory, Preparations Underway to Resolve Valve Issue

OFT-2 Starliner spacecraft
Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft returned Aug. 19, 2021, from the United Launch Alliance Vertical Integration Facility to the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where teams will work to diagnose and resolve a valve issue detected during the Aug. 3 launch attempt of NASA Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2. Photo credit: Boeing

Teams from Boeing and United Launch Alliance (ULA) safely returned the CST-100 Starliner to its production facility in Florida on Aug. 19 for continued work on the spacecraft’s service module propulsion system.

The Starliner Orbital Flight Test-2 spacecraft was removed from its Atlas V rocket inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida and returned to the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.

The team now will perform propulsion system checkouts inside the factory’s hazardous processing area and determine the appropriate vehicle configuration for accessing and analyzing the system further. NASA and Boeing will recommend forward work as part of a formal process designed to aid in determining root cause and remediation steps.

In the weeks ahead, engineering teams from NASA and Boeing will work to diagnose and ultimately resolve a valve issue detected during the Aug. 3 countdown for NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2, and resulted in the decision to postpone the launch destined for the International Space Station.

NASA, Boeing, and ULA will establish a new launch date once the issue is resolved.

NASA, Boeing to Move Starliner to Production Facility for Propulsion System Evaluation

Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is in view in the United Launch Alliance Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 on Aug. 9, 2021.
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is in view in the United Launch Alliance Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 on Aug. 9, 2021. Photo credit: Boeing

NASA and Boeing have decided to postpone the launch of Orbital Flight Test-2 to the International Space Station as teams continue work on the CST-100 Starliner propulsion system.

Engineering teams have been working to restore functionality to several valves in the Starliner propulsion system from inside United Launch Alliance’s Vertical Integration Facility that did not open as designed during the launch countdown for the Aug. 3 launch attempt. The valves connect to thrusters that enable abort and in-orbit maneuvering.

“We made a lot of progress to open the valves from inside the Vertical Integration Facility, and the NASA-Boeing teams did a great job doing everything we could to get ready for this launch opportunity,” said Kathryn Lueders, associate administrator for NASA’s Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate. “Although we wanted to see Starliner fly in this window, it’s critical that our primary focus is the safety of the crew transportation system – for the safety of the space station and the crew members that will be flying on these vehicles. We’ll only fly this test when we think we are ready, and can complete the mission objectives.”

Inside the VIF, Boeing was able to prompt nine of 13 valves open that previously were in the closed position using commanding, mechanical, electrical and thermal techniques. Teams will now begin the process to move Starliner back to Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility in Florida for deeper-level troubleshooting of four propulsion system valves that remain closed and more detailed analysis on the spacecraft.

“Mission success in human spaceflight depends on thousands of factors coming together at the right time,” said John Vollmer, vice president and program manager, Boeing’s Commercial Crew Program. “We’ll continue to work the issue from the Starliner factory and have decided to stand down for this launch window to make way for other national priority missions.”

NASA, Boeing and ULA will establish a new launch date once the issue is resolved.

NASA, Boeing Continue to Work Toward Understanding Starliner Service Module Valve Performance Issue

NASA Boeing OFT-2 Starliner spacecraft
On July 29, 2021, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is shown on top of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket in ULA’s Vertical Integration Facility.

NASA continues to work side-by-side with Boeing to understanding the CST-100 Starliner’s service module valve performance, including the unexpected indications some of the valves were in the closed position during its Aug. 3 launch attempt of Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2).

With troubleshooting ongoing in the United Launch Alliance Vertical Integration Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, where Starliner will be powered and run through various procedures to help understand the issue, NASA will move forward with the launch and berthing of an important cargo mission to the International Space Station.

Northrop Grumman’s Cygnus spacecraft is scheduled to launch on the company’s Antares rocket at 5:56 p.m. Tuesday, Aug. 10, from NASA’s Wallops Flight Facility in Wallops Island, Virginia, with capture and berthing scheduled two days later at about 6:10 a.m. EDT Thursday, Aug. 12.

In parallel, managers and engineers with NASA and Boeing will continue to evaluate schedules based on where the troubleshooting efforts take them before deciding when the next official launch for the OFT-2 mission will take place.

NASA, Boeing Continue Starliner Data Analysis

Atlas V rocket with Starliner on launch pad
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft onboard is seen on the launch pad on Thursday, July 29, 2021, at Space Launch Complex 41 in preparation for the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Photo Credit: (NASA/Aubrey Gemignani)

NASA and Boeing are continuing to work through steps to determine what caused the unexpected valve position indications on the CST-100 Starliner propulsion system.

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V with the Starliner spacecraft on top will be returned to its Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) at Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Thursday where engineers will have direct access to Starliner for continued troubleshooting.

The data will drive any corrective measures that may be necessary to ensure Starliner is ready for launch. When NASA’s Commercial Crew Program and Boeing Space agree the issue is resolved, a new launch opportunity will be selected, taking into account the readiness of all parties involved.

“The Boeing and NASA teams are working methodically to understand what caused the valve indications on the Starliner service module propulsion system,” Steve Stich, manager of the Commercial Crew Program, said. “The troubleshooting in the Vertical Integration Facility will help focus on potential causes and next steps before we fly the OFT-2 mission.”

Early in the launch countdown for the Tuesday, Aug. 3 launch attempt, engineers detected indications that not all of Starliner’s propulsion system valves were in the proper configuration needed for launch of the company’s second uncrewed orbital flight test to the International Space Station, a mission designed to test the end-to-end capabilities of the crew-capable system as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Mission teams decided to halt the countdown to further analyze the issue, which was conducted later Tuesday via several steps to troubleshoot the incorrect valve indications, including cycling the service module propulsion system valves.

After presenting the data to NASA and Boeing managers, it was decided to relocate the Atlas V and Starliner to the VIF for further inspection and testing where access to the spacecraft is available. Engineering teams have ruled out a number of potential causes, including software, and the direct access is required to continue the assessment.

“This mission is extremely important for the Commercial Crew Program on the path to the Boeing Crewed Flight Test,” Stich said. “We will fly the mission when we are ready. I am extremely proud of the NASA and Boeing teams for their professionalism, perseverance, and methodical approach to solving complex problems.”

NASA and Boeing will take whatever time is necessary to ensure Starliner is ready for its important uncrewed flight test to the space station and will look for the next available opportunity after resolution of the issue.

NASA, Boeing Standing Down on Aug. 4 Starliner Launch Attempt

NASA and Boeing are standing down from the Wednesday, Aug. 4, launch attempt of the agency’s Orbital Flight Test-2 to the International Space Station as mission teams continue to examine the cause of the unexpected valve position indications on the CST-100 Starliner propulsion system.

Early in the launch countdown for the Aug. 3 attempt, mission teams detected indications that not all valves were in the proper configuration needed for launch. Mission teams decided to halt the countdown to further analyze the issue.

NASA and Boeing worked through several steps to troubleshoot the incorrect valve indications, including cycling the service module propulsion system valves, within the current configuration of the Starliner and United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.

Mission teams have decided to roll the Atlas V and Starliner back to the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) for further inspection and testing where access to the spacecraft is available. Boeing will power down the Starliner spacecraft this evening. The move to the VIF is expected to take place as early as tomorrow.

Engineering teams have ruled out a number of potential causes, including software, but additional time is needed to complete the assessment.

NASA and Boeing will take whatever time is necessary to ensure Starliner is ready for its important uncrewed flight test to the space station and will look for the next available opportunity after resolution of the issue.

NASA’s Boeing OFT-2: Launch Scrubbed for Aug. 3. Attempt

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing's CST-100 Starliner atop is on the pad at Space Launch Complex-41 on Aug. 3, 2021.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner atop is on the pad at Space Launch Complex-41 on Aug. 3, 2021. Photo credit: NASA

NASA, Boeing and United Launch Alliance (ULA) have scrubbed the Aug. 3 launch attempt of the agency’s Orbital Flight Test-2 to the International Space Station due to unexpected valve position indications in the Starliner propulsion system. ULA will begin removing propellant from the Atlas V rocket.

Pending resolution of the forward work, our next available launch opportunity would be 12:57 p.m. EDT on Wednesday, Aug. 4.

For more information on the technical issue, click here.

Follow along with launch activities and get more information about the mission at: https://blogs.nasa.gov/commercialcrew/.

Learn more about commercial crew and space station activities by following @Commercial_Crew@space_station, and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the Commercial Crew FacebookISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts

Orbital Flight Test-2 Starliner, Atlas V Roll Return to Launch Pad

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft onboard is seen as it is rolled out of the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 ahead of the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission, Thursday, July 29, 2021 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2 will be Starliner’s second uncrewed flight test and will dock to the International Space Station as part of NASA's Commercial Crew Program.
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket with Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft onboard is seen as it is rolled out of the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 ahead of the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission, Thursday, July 29, 2021 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2 will be Starliner’s second uncrewed flight test and will dock to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Photo credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

This morning, Aug. 2, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft and the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket rolled out of the ULA Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) to return to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida ahead of NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 mission to the International Space Station. Liftoff is scheduled for 1:20 p.m. EDT on Tuesday, Aug. 3.

Starliner and the Atlas V rocket made the first trip to the launch pad on July 29, but rolled back to the VIF on July 30 to avoid potential inclement weather.

For a launch Tuesday, meteorologists with the U.S. Space Force 45th Weather Squadron are predicting a 60% chance of favorable weather. The primary weather concerns for launch day are the cumulus cloud rule, lightning rule, and thick cloud rule violations during the instantaneous launch window.

NASA TV will cover the upcoming prelaunch, launch, and docking activities. Mission coverage is as follows (all times Eastern):

Tuesday, Aug. 3

12:30 p.m. – NASA TV launch coverage begins for a targeted 1:20 p.m. liftoff. NASA TV will have continuous coverage through Starliner orbital insertion.

3:30 p.m. (approximately) – Postlaunch news conference on NASA TV.

Wednesday, Aug. 4

10:30 a.m. – NASA TV rendezvous and docking coverage begins.

1:37 p.m. (scheduled) – Docking

Thursday, Aug. 5

8:30 a.m. – NASA TV hatch opening coverage begins

8:40 a.m. – Hatch opening

9:40 a.m. (approximately) – Welcoming remarks

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts.

Orbital Flight Test-2 Starliner, Atlas V Roll Back to Vertical Integration Facility

On July 29, 2021, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft and the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket rolled out of the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Starliner will launch on the Atlas V for Boeing’s second uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. OFT-2 is an important uncrewed mission designed to test the end-to-end capabilities of the new system for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
On July 29, 2021, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft and the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket rolled out of the Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Starliner will launch on the Atlas V for Boeing’s second uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. OFT-2 is an important uncrewed mission designed to test the end-to-end capabilities of the new system for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Photo credit: United Launch Alliance

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft on the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket was rolled back from the launch pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida to ULA’s nearby Vertical Integration Facility on July 30 to avoid potential inclement weather in advance of Orbital Flight Test-2’s (OFT-2) launch to the International Space Station.

NASA and Boeing agreed to stand down from the July 30 attempt to allow the space station team time to continue working checkouts of the newly arrived Roscosmos’ Nauka module and to ensure the station will be ready for Starliner’s arrival. The earliest possible launch opportunity to the space station is no earlier than 1:20 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Aug. 3, from Space Launch Complex-41.

The U.S. Space Force 45th Weather Squadron predicts a 60% chance of favorable conditions for the Aug. 3 launch opportunity with the cumulous cloud rule, surface electric fields rule, and the lighting rule as the primary weather concerns.

The OFT-2 mission for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program will test the end-to-end capabilities of Starliner from launch to docking to a return to Earth in the desert of the western United States.

Learn more about NASA’s commercial crew program by following the commercial crew blog@commercial_crew and commercial crew on Facebook.

Learn more about station activities by following @space_station and @ISS_Research on Twitter as well as the ISS Facebook and ISS Instagram accounts

Starliner Spacecraft Rollout Targeted for Thursday Morning

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft and the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket will roll out to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Thursday morning. Photo credit: Boeing/Damon Tucci

The rollout of the Starliner spacecraft and Atlas V launch vehicle is now targeted for Thursday, July 29 at 8 a.m. EDT.

The delay is due to an internet service provider outage that could not be resolved before the onset of predicted weather exceeding operational constraints. The OFT-2 launch, planned for Friday, July 30, at 2:53 p.m. EDT, remains on track.

For more information about NASA’s commercial crew program, follow the commercial crew blog@commercial_crew and
commercial crew on Facebook.