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.

What You Need to Know about NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test 2

The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is secured atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on July 17, 2021. Starliner will launch on the Atlas V for Boeing’s second Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The spacecraft rolled out from Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center earlier in the day.
The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is secured atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida on July 17, 2021. Starliner will launch on the Atlas V for Boeing’s second Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2) for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. The spacecraft rolled out from Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center earlier in the day. Photo credit: Boeing/John Grant

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NASA and Boeing are taking another major step on the path to regular human spaceflight launches to the International Space Station on American rockets and spacecraft from American soil with the second uncrewed flight test of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.

NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) is targeting launch of the Starliner spacecraft on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at 2:53 p.m. EDT Friday, July 30, from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Starliner is expected to arrive at the space station for docking about 24 hours later with more than 400 pounds of NASA cargo and crew supplies.

The mission will test the end-to-end capabilities of Starliner from launch to docking, atmospheric re-entry, and a desert landing in the western United States. OFT-2 will provide valuable data that will help NASA certify Boeing’s crew transportation system to carry astronauts to and from the space station.

Read the full feature here.

SpaceX Crew-2 on Track for Launch April 23, NASA Celebrates Earth Day in Space Today

A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company's Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is in view on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, as preparations continue for the Crew-2 mission at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
A SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with the company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft onboard is in view on the launch pad at Launch Complex 39A on Tuesday, April 20, 2021, as preparations continue for the Crew-2 mission at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission is the second crew rotation mission of the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide are scheduled to launch at 5:49 a.m. EDT on Friday, April 23, 2021. Photo Credit: NASA/Joel Kowsky

Launch of NASA’s SpaceX Crew-2 mission with astronauts to the International Space Station is on track for Friday, April 23, at 5:49 a.m. EDT. The SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket with Crew Dragon spacecraft will lift off from Launch Complex 39A at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.

NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, along with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide, and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet will fly to the International Space Station for a six-month science mission. NASA TV coverage of Crew-2 launch preparations and liftoff will begin at 1:30 a.m. Friday, April 23. The Crew Dragon is scheduled to dock to the space station Saturday, April 24, at approximately 5:10 a.m. EDT.

For an April 23 launch, the U.S. Space Force 45th Weather Squadron continues to predict a 90% chance of favorable weather conditions at the launch pad for liftoff based on Falcon 9 Crew Dragon launch weather criteria. The primary weather concerns for the launch area will be flight through precipitation from isolated, low-topped coastal showers and onshore flow. Conditions continue to improve along the flight path and recovery area for the mission.

Today, Thursday, April 22, is Earth Day. To commemorate this day, NASA is hosting Earth Day in Space. Singer-songwriter Shawn Mendes will join five astronauts living and working aboard the International Space to discuss how we’re all #ConnectedByEarth, asking questions from young people around the world about Earth Day, climate change and how the astronauts study Earth from space.

The event will feature NASA astronaut Mark Vande Hei, who recently arrived to the space station aboard a Soyuz, joining NASA astronauts Mike Hopkins, Victor Glover, Shannon Walker, and Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency astronaut Soichi Noguchi, the Crew-1 team who arrived last November. It will air live on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s YouTube channel and website at 11 a.m. EDT April 22.

The Crew-1 astronauts are scheduled to depart the space station at 7:05 a.m. Wednesday, April 28. They will participate in their final news conference aboard the microgravity laboratory at 12:30 p.m. EDT Monday, April 26, about their upcoming return to Earth. Media wishing to participate by telephone must call NASA’s Johnson Space Center’s newsroom at 281-483-5111 to RSVP no later than 5 p.m. Friday, April 23. The news conference will air live on NASA Television, the NASA app, and the agency’s website. Those following the briefing on social media may ask questions using #AskNASA.

Crew-1 worked on a number of experiments as part of Expedition 64 to the International Space Station, including tissue chips that mimic the structure and function of human organs to understand the role of microgravity on human health and diseases, and translate those findings to improve human health on Earth. Astronauts also grew radishes in different types of light and soils as part of ongoing efforts to produce food in space and tested a new system to remove heat from spacesuits.

Follow along with launch activities and get more information about the mission at: http://www.nasa.gov/crew-2. 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.

Acting NASA Administrator, Partners Discuss Crew-2 Mission, Now Set for April 23

Frank De Winne, manager, International Space Station Program, ESA (European Space Agency) speaks to members of the media during a press conference with, from left, acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk, Hiroshi Sasaki, vice president and director general of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate, NASA astronauts Tracy Caldwell Dyson, and Jasmin Moghbeli, and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, ahead of the Crew-2 launch, Wednesday, April 21, 2021, at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, and JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide are scheduled to launch at 5:49 a.m. EDT on Friday, April 23, from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center.
Frank De Winne, manager, International Space Station Program, ESA (European Space Agency) speaks to members of the media during a press conference with, from left, acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk, Hiroshi Sasaki, vice president and director general of the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency’s (JAXA) Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate, NASA astronauts Tracy Caldwell Dyson, and Jasmin Moghbeli, and Kennedy Space Center Director Bob Cabana, ahead of the Crew-2 launch. at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. NASA astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur, ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, and JAXA astronaut Akihiko Hoshide are scheduled to launch at 5:49 a.m. EDT on Friday, April 23, from Launch Complex 39A at the Kennedy Space Center. Photo Credit: NASA/Aubrey Gemignani

With the countdown clock and Launch Pad 39A serving as a backdrop, acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk participated in a briefing for the Crew-2 mission at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Wednesday, April 21, at 8:30 a.m. EDT.

The briefing came after Crew-2’s launch was rescheduled to Friday, April 23, at 5:49 a.m. EDT, because of unfavorable weather conditions along the flight path. Although conditions around the launch site were expected to be favorable for a Thursday, April 22, liftoff, mission teams also must consider conditions along the flight path and recovery area in the unlikely event of a launch escape.

“We’re now scheduled for ‘go’ on Friday and the crew is ready,” said Acting NASA Administrator Steve Jurczyk. “I could not be more proud of the Commercial Crew Program, the SpaceX and NASA teams, and what they’ve been able to do to enable reliable, safe, effective transportation to and from space. We are looking forward to a great launch.”

Crew-2 is the second crew rotation flight of a U.S. commercial spacecraft with astronauts to the space station and the first carrying two international crew members. Mission astronauts Shane Kimbrough and Megan McArthur of NASA, along with JAXA (Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency) astronaut Akihiko Hoshide and ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Thomas Pesquet, will head to the International Space Station for a six-month science mission in the Crew Dragon spacecraft, which will launch on the SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Launch Complex 39A.

“On behalf of JAXA, I’d like to express my gratitude to the launch team,” said Hiroshi Sasaki, vice president and director general, JAXA’s Human Spaceflight Technology Directorate. “Last night, I spoke with Akihiko Hoshide, and he is ready for launch. I am excited that two Japanese astronauts – Akihiko Hoshide and Soichi Noguchi – will meet together at the International Space Station. I’m looking forward to the Crew-2 launch and wishing them great success.”

The crew will conduct science and maintenance during their six-month stay aboard the space station and will return no earlier than Oct. 31. Adding more crew members aboard the microgravity laboratory increases the time available for scientific activities. The November 2020 addition of the Crew-1 astronauts more than doubled crew hours spent on science research and support activities, and Crew-2 will continue the important investigations and technology demonstrations that are preparing for future Artemis missions to the Moon, helping us improve our understanding of Earth’s climate, and improving life on our home planet.

An important scientific focus on this expedition is continuing a series of Tissue Chips in Space studies. Tissue chips are small models of human organs containing multiple cell types that behave much the same as they do in the body. Another important element of Crew-2’s mission is augmenting the station’s solar power system by installing the first pair of six new ISS Roll-out Solar Arrays (iROSA).

“It’s an exciting time for us,” said Frank de Winne, manager, International Space Station Program. “We will have much more time to do research, science, but also technology development that we will need for the future of the Artemis program and for the future exploration of our solar system.”

Crew Dragon will deliver more than 500 pounds of cargo, as well as new science hardware and experiments, including CHIME, a university student-led investigation to study possible causes for suppressed immune response in microgravity.

For an April 23 launch, the U.S. Space Force 45th Weather Squadron predicts a 90% chance of favorable weather conditions at the launch pad for liftoff based on Falcon 9 Crew Dragon launch weather criteria. The primary weather concerns for the launch area will be liftoff winds. Conditions also are expected to improve along the flight path and recovery area for the mission.

NASA TV coverage of Crew-2 launch preparations and liftoff will begin at 1:30 a.m. Friday, April 23. The Crew Dragon is scheduled to dock to the space station Saturday, April 24, at approximately 5:10 a.m. EDT.

Follow along with launch activities and get more information about the mission at: http://www.nasa.gov/crew-2. 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.