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 completed a joint Crew Flight Test checkpoint review May 25 ahead of the first flight of Starliner with astronauts to the International Space Station. During the checkpoint, mission teams reviewed open work ahead of launch planned no earlier than July 21, including emerging issues that need a path to closure prior to a decision to fuel the spacecraft in June.
“We are taking a methodical approach to the first crewed flight of Starliner incorporating all of the lessons learned from the various in-depth testing campaigns, including Starliner’s flight tests and the agency’s verification efforts,” said Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “All Orbital Flight Test-2 anomalies are closed. In addition to the closeout of ongoing work, the team remains vigilant on tracking new technical issues as we complete certification for crewed flight.”
As part of the ongoing effort, 95% of the Crew Flight Test certification products are complete. This includes approval of Starliner’s crew module batteries, based on additional testing and analysis, along with post-certification flight mitigations and a proposed battery upgrade for future missions. Teams are conducting final spacecraft closeouts and preparing for upcoming hardware milestones, including spacecraft fueling, spacecraft rollout to the launch site, and integration with the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.
While the team continues to work the remaining certification products, they also are working resolution paths on the following items:
Teams will remove and replace a by-pass valve on the active thermal control system, which is located on the Starliner service module and is used to flow coolant into the system to cool the onboard avionics. The Starliner team is replacing the valve that was restricting flow to one of two redundant loops, and running a diagnostic to confirm the suspected issue with the malfunctioning hardware. This work is expected to take about a week with no overall impact to the launch schedule at this time.
Engineers also are working to evaluate any elevated risk from a specific type of tape used on the spacecraft to protect wires from chafing. Although the tape is commonly used in spaceflight, the adhesive properties of the tape could present a flammability risk under certain conditions. NASA and Boeing are evaluating this material and the system’s overall wiring protection to confirm it is acceptable for crewed flight. Those efforts are ongoing and are expected to complete before Boeing begins fueling operations on the spacecraft.
NASA and Boeing also are working to reassess Starliner’s parachute system margins based on new data reviews as part of the ongoing design certification process. Engineers are reviewing the overall efficiency of certain joints within the parachute system to confirm they meet all required factors of safety for crewed flight.
“Crew safety remains the highest priority for NASA and its industry providers, and emerging issues are not uncommon in human spaceflight especially during development,” said Stich. “If you look back two months ago at the work we had ahead of us, it’s almost all complete. The combined team is resilient and resolute in their goal of flying crew on Starliner as soon as it is safe to do so. If a schedule adjustment needs to be made in the future, then we will certainly do that as we have done before. We will only fly when we are ready.”
Starliner spacecraft fueling is expected to begin as early as mid-June, and there is some operational flexibility in that timeline that can be used if needed. Teams will continue to monitor the forward work and determine whether an adjustment in the current launch date is needed. An update on the team’s progress will be provided in the coming weeks.
NASA and its industry partners, Boeing and SpaceX, are planning target launch schedules for upcoming commercial crew missions to the International Space Station.
Target Launch Manifest
NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test: NET July 21, 2023
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-7: NET mid-August 2023
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-8: NET February 2024
NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1: NET Summer 2024
Here is a closer look at each mission:
NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test
NASA and Boeing’s Crew Flight Test (CFT), planned no earlier than July 21, 2023, is the first crewed flight of the Starliner system prior to certification and regular crewed missions to the space station. 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.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-7
NASA and SpaceX’s seventh rotational mission to the space station is planned for no earlier than mid-August 2023. NASA astronaut Jasmin Moghbeli and Andreas Mogensen of ESA (European Space Agency), mission commander and pilot, respectively, will fly aboard the SpaceX Dragon spacecraft named Endurance, which previously flew on NASA’s SpaceX Crew-5 and Crew-3 missions. The final two mission specialists will be assigned in the coming weeks. The spacecraft is currently being prepared for flight at SpaceX’s refurbishing facility in Cape Canaveral, Florida. The company’s Falcon 9 rocket booster selection in support of Crew-7 is ongoing.
NASA’s SpaceX Crew-8
NASA and SpaceX’s eighth rotational mission to the space station is planned for no earlier than February 2024. An integrated crew of four will travel to the space station aboard a SpaceX Dragon and Falcon 9 rocket. Hardware allocations for Dragon and Falcon are planned in the coming months. Once crew members are assigned, operations teams will increase crew training activities specific to the mission, including spacesuit production and testing.
NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1
NASA and Boeing’s first crew rotation mission to the space station is planned for no earlier than summer 2024. NASA astronauts Scott Tingle and Mike Fincke, commander and pilot, respectively, will fly aboard the Starliner spacecraft, which previously flew on Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2 mission. Two mission specialists will be assigned in the coming months. Timing of the launch is subject to change based on several factors, including: a successful CFT, incorporation of anticipated learning from CFT, approvals of postflight data and final certification products, and completion of operational readiness and certification reviews. Starliner-1 will fly a new service module currently in production at the Boeing facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Production of the Atlas V rocket is complete. The hardware is in storage at the United Launch Alliance facility in Decatur, Alabama, awaiting shipment to the launch site for stacking and final integration with the spacecraft.
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.”