NASA, Boeing Update Launch Date for Starliner’s First Astronaut Flight

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is lifted at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex-41 at Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on May 4, 2022. Photo credit: NASA/Frank MichauxFollowing a review of the International Space Station operations, NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test now is targeting no earlier than Monday, May 6, for Starliner’s first launch with astronauts to the orbital complex. The date adjustment optimizes space station schedule of activities planned toward the end of April, including a cargo spacecraft undocking and a crew spacecraft port relocation required for Starliner docking. NASA and Boeing also are performing prelaunch closeout work and completing final certification for flight.

Starliner will carry NASA astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore to the space station for a docking to the forward port of the Harmony module. Ahead of Starliner’s launch, NASA’s SpaceX Crew-8 crewmates will board the Dragon spacecraft, currently docked to the forward port, for a relocation to the zenith port of Harmony to allow for Starliner docking. The date shift also allows additional time for the crew aboard the microgravity laboratory to complete science and cargo logistics ahead of the departure of the Dragon cargo spacecraft.

As part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program, Starliner will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Williams and Wilmore will spend about a week docked to the space station ahead of a return to Earth in the western United States. The flight test will help NASA verify whether the Starliner system is ready to fly regular crew rotation missions to space station for the agency.

NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test Stacking Up For Launch

Crews raise a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket to a vertical position at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024.
Crews raise a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket to a vertical position at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

NASA, Boeing, and ULA (United Launch Alliance) are readying the rocket that will launch the first crewed flight of the Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket stands vertical, awaiting integration with the rocket’s Centaur upper stage and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner after moving inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024.
A United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket stands vertical, awaiting integration with the rocket’s Centaur upper stage and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner after moving inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on Wednesday, Feb. 21, 2024. Photo credit: NASA/Frank Michaux

The ULA Atlas V rocket was moved into the company’s Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, which starts the preparations for its stacking operations ahead of NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test.

The rocket’s main stage was transferred from the nearby Advanced Spaceflight Operations Center to the integration facility Wednesday, Feb. 21, where it will await integration with the rocket’s upper Centaur stage and Starliner. The spacecraft will carry NASA astronauts Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore to the orbiting laboratory for a short stay of about one to two weeks before returning to a landing site in the southwest United States.

The mission will test the end-to-end capabilities of the Starliner system, including launch, docking, and a return to Earth. After successful completion of the mission, NASA will begin the final process of certifying Starliner and its systems for crewed rotation missions to the space station.

NASA and Boeing are targeting no earlier than late April for launch. Starliner completed two uncrewed flight tests, including Orbital Flight Test-2, which docked to the space station on May 21, 2022, and provided valuable data leading up to its first crewed flight.

Details about the mission and NASA’s Commercial Crew Program can be found by following the commercial crew blog, X, and Facebook.

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-8 Astronauts Depart Houston for Florida

Members of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-8 from right to left, NASA astronauts Jeanette Epps, mission specialist; Matthew Dominick, commander; Michael Barratt, pilot; and Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Grebenkin, mission specialist; will launch to the International Space Station no earlier than 12:04 a.m. EST Friday, March 1, from Launch Complex 39A at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Photo credit: SpaceX

NASA’s SpaceX Crew-8 crew members are en route to the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to begin final launch preparations.

Crew-8 crewmates NASA astronauts Matthew Dominick, commander; Michael Barratt, pilot; Jeanette Epps, mission specialist; along with Roscosmos cosmonaut Alexander Grebenkin, mission specialist, departed by plane from Ellington Field near the agency’s Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas, for the short flight to the Florida spaceport. The crew is expected to arrive at Kennedy’s Launch and Landing Facility this afternoon.

Crew-8 astronauts will be greeted upon their arrival by leaders from NASA for a brief welcome ceremony targeted for approximately 2 p.m. EST. The event is scheduled to stream live, if weather permits, on Kennedy’s YouTube, X, and Facebook accounts.

Meanwhile, NASA, SpaceX, and international partner representatives have gathered at Kennedy to participate in the agency’s Flight Readiness Review, which focuses on the preparedness of SpaceX’s crew transportation system, the space station, and its international partners to support the launch of Crew-8 and return of Crew-7. A teleconference is planned for later today, approximately one hour after the conclusion of the review. Be sure to follow along on our blog; additional details will be provided as the day progresses.

SpaceX Crew-8 is targeted to launch at 12:04 a.m. EST on Friday, March 1, to the International Space Station.

Boeing CST-100 Starliner Makes its Way to Space Launch Complex 41

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft passes by the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, Nov. 21, on its way to Space Launch Complex 41 Vertical Integration Facility.

Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft passes by the Vehicle Assembly Building at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Thursday, Nov. 21, making its way to the Space Launch Complex 41 Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. At the pad, Starliner will be secured atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in preparation for Boeing’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.

Photo credit: NASA/Cory Huston