NASA, Boeing Update Launch Target for Next Starliner Flight Test

Boeing Starliner
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft undergoes preparations for the company’s Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) in the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on April 28, 2021. Photo credit: Boeing

NASA and Boeing are targeting 2:53 pm EDT Friday, July 30, for the launch of the company’s Starliner uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) to the International Space Station. The updated launch target is supported by the station’s visiting vehicle schedule, Starliner readiness, and the availability of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

“NASA and Boeing have done an incredible amount of work to get to this point,” said Steve Stich, Commercial Crew Program manager. “Our teams are ready for this important mission due to the coordinated efforts of many, including United Launch Alliance, NASA’s Launch Services Program, and the U.S. Space Force, which enabled us to establish this launch opportunity. We are looking forward to a successful OFT-2 mission.”

Boeing recently completed end-to-end testing of Starliner’s fight software by flying a five-day simulated OFT-2 mission to the station. The company will continue supporting NASA’s post-test reviews. All actions recommended by the NASA-Boeing Joint Independent Review Team following Starliner’s uncrewed first flight test in December 2019 are complete and pending closure by NASA.

Boeing also will continue processing hardware for its first flight of astronauts – the Crew Flight Test – until mid-summer. OFT-2 launch activities, including loading cargo and fueling the spacecraft are scheduled to begin around this time.

A launch on July 30 would lead to rendezvous and docking with the space station on the evening of Saturday, July 31.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is working with industry through a public-private partnership to provide safe, reliable, and cost-effective transportation to and from the International Space Station, which will allow for additional research time and will increase the opportunity for discovery aboard humanity’s testbed for exploration. The space station remains the springboard to space exploration, including future missions to the Moon and eventually to Mars.

NASA, Boeing Update Starliner Orbital Flight Test Date

Boeing's Starliner spacecraft
NASA and Boeing teams are adjusting the launch date of Orbital Flight Test-2 to allow more time for CST-100 Starliner spacecraft and hardware processing. Photo credit: Boeing/John Proferes

NASA and Boeing now are targeting no earlier than Friday, April 2, for launch of the agency’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 to the International Space Station.

As preparations continue for the second uncrewed flight test, teams remain focused on the safety and quality of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft and successful launch of the end-to-end test to prove the system is ready to begin flying astronauts to and from the space station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Teams are adjusting the launch date to allow more time for spacecraft and hardware processing. Ahead of final propellant loading, the company recently replaced avionics units affected as a result of a power surge due to a ground support equipment configuration issue during final checkouts.

“NASA continues to work alongside Boeing to prepare for this first mission of 2021,” said Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. “The Boeing and NASA teamwork on all aspects of flight preparation including final certification, hazard analysis, and software testing is extraordinary. Even though this uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station is a key milestone on the path to the first Starliner crewed mission planned for later this year, we will fly when we are ready.”

With formal software tests completed, Boeing is continuing with flight preparations. The company is ready to conduct an end-to-end mission rehearsal, using high-fidelity flight hardware and final flight software, to ensure the readiness of the team and combined systems.

Boeing continues to support NASA as it reviews flight readiness, and teams have completed about 95% of the recommendations identified by the joint NASA and Boeing Independent Review Team, formed following the anomalies during the company’s first uncrewed Orbital Flight Test in December 2019.

“We appreciate the significant work NASA is undertaking ahead of launch,” said John Vollmer, Starliner’s vice president and program manager at Boeing. “We’re fully engaged in the agency’s review process as a valuable investment of our time to ensure confidence in the spacecraft.”

Boeing’s Starliner Makes Progress Ahead of Flight Test with Astronauts

NASA astronauts Nicole Mann, left, Mike Fincke, and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson, right
NASA astronauts Nicole Mann, left, Mike Fincke, and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson, right, pose for a photograph on Sept. 11, 2019, as they, along with teams from NASA, Boeing and the White Sands Missile Range, rehearse landing and crew extraction from Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner. Photo credit: Boeing

NASA and Boeing continue to make progress toward the company’s second uncrewed flight test of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft prior to flying astronauts to the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

The Commercial Crew Program currently is targeting no earlier than December 2020 for launch of the uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) pending hardware readiness, flight software qualification, and launch vehicle and space station manifest priorities.

Over the summer, Boeing’s Starliner team focused on readying the next spacecraft for its upcoming flight tests as well as making improvements identified during various review processes throughout the beginning of the year. NASA also announced an additional crew assignment for its first operational mission, NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1, with astronauts to the space station.

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