Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is safely in orbit heading for the International Space Station following launch of the next-generation spacecraft on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket on a mission designed to test the end-to-end capabilities of the crew-capable system.
The Starliner spacecraft is scheduled to dock to the space station at 7:10 p.m. on Friday, May 20. The spacecraft is carrying more than 500 pounds of NASA cargo and crew supplies to the space station and returns to Earth with nearly 600 pounds of cargo, including reusable Nitrogen Oxygen Recharge System (NORS) tanks that provide breathable air to station crew members.
Launch conductors have completed their polls of the launch teams. The T-4 minute built-in hold has been released and the countdown has resumed. The Starliner spacecraft has been configured for terminal count. Three seconds before launch, the Atlas V booster’s RD-180 engine will ignite.
Starliner has been switched to internal power and configured for launch. The crew access arm has been stowed for launch. Weather still looking good.
The launch conductor has started a terminal count briefing with the launch team. There are three control rooms: the United Launch Alliance’s Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center on the Cape Canaveral Space Force Station; the Boeing Mission Control Center at Kennedy Space Center; and the Space Station Control Room at Johnson Space Center in Houston. NASA’s Emergency Operations Center also is activated, and United Launch Alliance has teams in Denver who will monitor ascent of the rocket.
Meteorologists with the U.S. Space Force 45th Weather Squadron now predict an 80% chance of favorable weather for today’s uncrewed launch of NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) to the International Space Station. Liftoff is scheduled for 6:54 p.m. EDT from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
The primary weather concerns for launch day are the cumulus and anvil cloud rules violations during the instantaneous launch window.
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, will lift off from Space Launch Complex-41. Live launch coverage begins at 6 p.m. EDT on NASA TV, the NASA app, and the agency’s website.
On Wednesday, May 4, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner was joined with the rocket that will launch the spacecraft on its way to the International Space Station on an uncrewed flight test for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
During the operation, Starliner rolled out of the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida and made its way to Space Launch Complex-41 (SLC-41) at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in preparation for the company’s second uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT-2)
Starliner was raised and carefully placed onto the rocket and now is fully assembled and ready for an integrated systems test, a tip-to-tail electrical check of the 172-foot-tall Atlas V and Starliner stack.
OFT-2 is scheduled to launch Thursday, May 19, to demonstrate the system’s human transportation capabilities.
About 24 hours after launch, Starliner will rendezvous and dock to the space station and then return to Earth five to 10 days later. The test is the last flight before the Starliner system launches American astronauts on the Crew Flight Test (CFT) to the microgravity laboratory – the spacecraft’s first flight test with crew on board. Potential launch windows for CFT are under review and will be determined after a safe and successful OFT-2.
NASA and Boeing will hold a joint teleconference at 2:30 p.m. EDT Tuesday, Oct. 19, to update media on the company’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft. Teams will discuss work on the oxidizer isolation valve issue that was discovered ahead of the planned uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission to the International Space Station in August.
Participants in the briefing will be:
Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program
John Vollmer, vice president and program manager, Boeing Commercial Crew Program
Michelle Parker, chief engineer, Boeing Space and Launch
To participate in the teleconference, media must contact firstname.lastname@example.org by 1:30 p.m. Oct. 19 for the dial-in information.
The OFT-2 mission will launch Starliner on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Starliner will dock to the space station before returning to land in the western United States about a week later as part of an end-to-end test flight to prove the system is ready to fly crew.
Teams from Boeing and United Launch Alliance (ULA) safely returned the CST-100 Starliner to its production facility in Florida on Aug. 19 for continued work on the spacecraft’s service module propulsion system.
The Starliner Orbital Flight Test-2 spacecraft was removed from its Atlas V rocket inside the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida and returned to the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility on NASA’s Kennedy Space Center.
The team now will perform propulsion system checkouts inside the factory’s hazardous processing area and determine the appropriate vehicle configuration for accessing and analyzing the system further. NASA and Boeing will recommend forward work as part of a formal process designed to aid in determining root cause and remediation steps.
In the weeks ahead, engineering teams from NASA and Boeing will work to diagnose and ultimately resolve a valve issue detected during the Aug. 3 countdown for NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2, and resulted in the decision to postpone the launch destined for the International Space Station.
NASA, Boeing, and ULA will establish a new launch date once the issue is resolved.
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.
NASA and Boeing continued work over the weekend and Monday morning on the company’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft service module propulsion system in preparation for the Orbital Flight Test-2 mission to the International Space Station.
Work progressed to restore functionality to several valves in the Starliner propulsion system 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.
With the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V and Starliner in the Vertical Integration Facility (VIF) near Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, engineering teams are able to power on Starliner allowing the vehicle to receive commands, and have direct access to the spacecraft for troubleshooting.
Inside the VIF, Boeing has been able to command seven of 13 valves open that previously were in the closed position. Test teams are applying mechanical, electrical and thermal techniques to prompt the valves to open, and are moving forward with a systematic plan to open the remainder of the affected valves, demonstrate repeatable system performance, and verify the root cause of the issue before returning Starliner to the launch pad for its Orbital Flight Test-2 mission.
Boeing also has completed physical inspections and chemical sampling on the exterior of a number of the affected valves, which indicated no signs of damage or external corrosion.
In the coming days, NASA and Boeing will continue work to bring all affected valves into the proper configuration. If all valve functionality can be restored and root cause identified, NASA will work with Boeing to determine a path to flight for the important uncrewed mission to the space station.
NASA, Boeing and ULA are assessing the potential for several launch opportunities with the earliest available in mid-August. Any launch date options would protect for the planetary window for the agency’s Lucy mission – the first-ever mission to explore Trojan asteroids.