OFT Mission Taking Shape at Space Launch Complex 41

A Centaur upper stage is lifted at the Space Launch Complex 41 Vertical Integration Facility at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Nov. 8, 2019.
A Centaur upper stage is lifted at the Space Launch Complex 41 Vertical Integration Facility at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on Nov. 8, 2019, for mating to the United Launch Alliance Atlas V first stage in preparation for Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test (OFT). The uncrewed OFT mission will rendezvous and dock Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft with the International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Starliner will launch atop the Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket set to launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner on its maiden voyage to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program is ready for the mating of Starliner to the top of the launch vehicle.

The United Launch Alliance Atlas V first stage is lifted to the vertical position on Nov. 4, 2019, in the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41.
The United Launch Alliance Atlas V first stage is lifted to the vertical position on Nov. 4, 2019, in the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

On Monday, Nov. 4, the Atlas V’s first stage was lifted to the vertical position inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, followed by the mating of two solid rocket boosters to the booster. ULA teams then attached the Centaur upper stage and launch vehicle adapter atop the Atlas V first stage.

Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT) mission will rendezvous and dock the Starliner spacecraft with the space station. OFT will help set the stage for Boeing’s Crew Flight Test (CFT), which will carry NASA astronauts Michael Fincke and Nicole Mann, and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson to the space station and return them safely home.

As aerospace industry providers Boeing and SpaceX begin to make regular flights to the space station, NASA will continue to advance its mission to go beyond low-Earth orbit and establish a human presence on the Moon with the ultimate goal of sending astronauts to Mars.

Solar Orbiter Arrives at Kennedy from Europe

The Solar Orbiter spacecraft is placed on a truck for transportation from the Launch and Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the Astrotech Space Operations facility in nearby Titusville on Nov. 1, 2019.
The Solar Orbiter spacecraft is placed on a truck for transportation from the Launch and Landing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to the Astrotech Space Operations facility in nearby Titusville on Nov. 1, 2019. Photo credit: NASA/Ben Smegelsky

The European Space Agency’s (ESA) Solar Orbiter spacecraft arrived at the Launch and Landing Facility, formerly known as the Shuttle Landing Facility, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida aboard an Antonov cargo plane from Munich, Germany, on Nov. 1. Upon arrival at the Florida spaceport, the spacecraft was offloaded and transported to the Astrotech Space Operations facility in nearby Titusville, where it will spend the next few months undergoing final preparations, tests and checkouts for liftoff.

Solar Orbiter is an ESA mission that will study the Sun, its outer atmosphere and solar winds. Using high spatial resolution telescopes, the spacecraft will observe the Sun’s atmosphere up close and compare these observations with measurements taken around the spacecraft. Due to its unique orbit, Solar Orbiter will provide the first images of the Sun’s poles. NASA’s Launch Services Program based at Kennedy is managing the launch.

Although developed independently, ESA’s Solar Orbiter and NASA’s Parker Solar Probe, which launched Aug. 12, 2018, are natural teammates. Solar Orbiter’s comprehensive science instruments and unique orbit will help scientists place NASA’s Parker Solar Probe’s measurements in context. By working together in this way, the two spacecraft will collect complementary data sets allowing more science to be gathered from the two missions than either could manage on its own.

The spacecraft’s mission to the Sun is planned for launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V-411 rocket from SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida on Feb. 5, 2020, at 11:15 p.m. EST.