United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket that will launch Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner to the International Space Station for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program was modified specifically for the agency’s Orbital Flight Test-2. This rocket configuration does not include a payload fairing. Instead, the Starliner’s own protective surfaces will take the place of the fairing to protect the uncrewed spacecraft during launch and ascent. The rocket has two solid rocket boosters (SRBs) and a dual-engine Centaur upper stage. Starliner is attached to the Atlas V using a launch vehicle adapter, which includes an aeroskirt to reduce the aerodynamic loads on the vehicle.
The Atlas V booster is 12.5 feet in diameter and 106.5 feet in length. The booster’s propulsion is provided by the RD-180 engine system, which delivers 860,200 pounds of thrust at sea level. The SRBs generate the additional power required at liftoff, with each providing 348,500 pounds of thrust.
The Centaur second stage is 10 feet in diameter and 41.5 feet in length. For this configuration, the Centaur is configured with dual RL10A-4-2 engines, each producing 22,600 pounds of thrust. The cryogenic tanks are insulated with a combination of helium-purge blankets, radiation shields, and spray-on foam insulation. The Centaur includes an Emergency Detection System that monitors for critical hazards. This system will provide critical in-flight data which supports jettison of the ascent cover and initiates CST-100 spacecraft separation.
NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 will test the end-to-end capabilities of the company’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft from launch to docking to a return to Earth in the desert of the western United States. The flight test will provide valuable data toward NASA certifying Boeing’s crew transportation system for regular crewed flights to and from the International Space Station. OFT-2 will build on the objectives achieved during Starliner’s initial flight test, including:
In-orbit operation of the avionics, docking system, communications and telemetry systems, environmental control systems, solar arrays and electrical power systems and propulsion systems;
Performance of the guidance, navigation and control systems of the Starliner and Atlas V through ascent, on-orbit, and entry;
Acoustic and vibration levels, and loads across the Starliner exterior and interior;
Launch escape trigger monitoring; and
Performance of the Starliner system end-to-end mission operations.
These objectives are intended to demonstrate all of Starliner’s systems and capabilities except for those requiring a human onboard to test.
For this flight, Starliner will carry more than 500 pounds of NASA cargo and crew supplies to the space station. After a successful docking, the spacecraft will spend five to 10 days aboard the orbiting laboratory before returning to Earth. The spacecraft will return with nearly 600 pounds of NASA cargo, including reusable Nitrogen Oxygen Recharge System tanks that provide breathable air to station crew members.
Good afternoon from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, and welcome to live launch coverage of NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) to the International Space Station, launching in a little over an hour. Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft sits atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket poised on the launch pad ready to go at nearby Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
OFT-2 is an uncrewed flight test of the company’s Starliner spacecraft for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Liftoff is scheduled for 6:54 p.m. EDT during an instantaneous launch window.
The countdown is currently proceeding according to schedule. Fueling of the Atlas V rocket began a little after noon EDT today. The first stage booster’s RD-180 engine, containing two thrust chambers, was fueled with Rocket Propellant-1, a highly purified kerosene. The Centaur second stage was fueled with liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen. Fueling of the rocket was completed about two hours later.
Meteorologists with the U.S. Air Force 45th Weather Squadron continue to predict an 80% chance of favorable weather for launch this afternoon. The primary concerns for launch day are the cumulus and anvil cloud rules violations during the instantaneous launch window.
Starliner will launch uncrewed atop the United Launch Alliance Atlas-V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. It will automatically dock to the Harmony module’s forward port at 7:10 p.m. EDT on Friday where it will stay for approximately five days of cargo and test operations. NASA TV begins live launch coverage on the NASA app and its website at 6 p.m. today.
On Wednesday, flight controllers notified the space station crew of the possibility of a close pass by orbital debris late Thursday, May 19 and the station executing a debris avoidance maneuver. Additional tracking data received overnight shows there is no longer concern for a close pass and no avoidance maneuver is required.
NASA Flight Engineer Kjell Lindgren spent Thursday afternoon setting up hardware and software that will help monitor the arrival of Boeing’s Starliner crew ship on the OFT-2 mission. Earlier, he conducted a pair of tests measuring his cognition and hearing levels to understand microgravity’s long-term effects on humans.
NASA astronauts Bob Hines and Jessica Watkins joined ESA (European Space Agency) astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti conducting cargo operations inside the Northrop Grumman Cygnus space freighter. The commercial cargo craft arrived at the station on Feb. 21 delivering 8,300 pounds of experiments and hardware. Cygnus will depart the station in mid-June loaded with trash and discarded gear for a fiery, but safe destruction above the south Pacific Ocean.
Hines and Watkins started the day collecting and stowing their blood samples for later analysis. Hines later serviced a variety of life support and research hardware. Watkins monitored her glucose level to understand the cardiovascular risk of living and working in space. Cristoforetti collected air samples to demonstrate analyzing trace atmospheric contaminants using the ANITA-2 (Analyzing Interferometer for Ambient Air-2) device.
Boeing’s Starliner crew ship sits atop the Atlas-V rocket from United Launch Alliance counting down to its launch from Florida to the International Space Station on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Expedition 67 crew concentrated on medical training, exercise systems maintenance, and a variety of advanced space science on Wednesday.
Two NASA astronauts continued preparing for the arrival of Boeing’s uncrewed Starliner spaceship on the company’s Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission. Flight Engineers Kjell Lindgren and Bob Hines reviewed Starliner systems and approach and rendezvous procedures ahead of the spacecraft’s automated docking to the Harmony module’s forward port at 7:10 p.m. EDT on Friday. The uncrewed spacecraft is targeted to launch at 6:54 p.m. on Thursday from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The duo will be on duty Friday monitoring Starliner during its three-and-a-half hours of automated approach maneuvers.
Lindgren started his day servicing the advanced resistive exercise device which mimics free weight exercises in microgravity. Hines collected and stowed his urine samples in a science freezer for later analysis to understand the long-term effects of weightlessness on the human body.
Flight Engineers Jessica Watkins of NASA and Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency) worked on a variety of orbital plumbing tasks during Wednesday morning. Watkins also wrapped up a blood pressure measurement session and prepared the health data for downlinking to doctors on Earth. Cristoforetti trained on a computer to increase her proficiency when commanding the Canadarm2 robotic arm.
The quartet also joined Roscosmos cosmonauts Oleg Artemyev, Denis Matveev, and Sergey Korsakov, for a medical emergency training session on Wednesday. The four astronauts and three cosmonauts practiced cardiopulmonary resuscitation, reviewed medical hardware, and discussed coordination of care in the event of an emergency on the space station.
Artemyev, the commander of the orbiting lab, also tested using ultrasound sensors for more accurate Earth photography sessions. The veteran cosmonaut then studied ways to improve international coordination between space crews and mission controllers. Matveev joined Artemyev participating in the photography tests and the crew coordination study. Korsakov inventoried and stowed medical gear and also inspected and photographed windows in the Zvezda service module.
This morning, Wednesday, May 18, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft and the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket rolled out of the ULA Vertical Integration Facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida ahead of the 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 on Thursday, May 19.
For a launch Thursday, meteorologists with the U.S. Space Force 45th Weather Squadron continue to predict a 70% chance of favorable weather. The primary weather concerns for launch day are the cumulus and anvil cloud rules violations during the instantaneous launch window.
NASA leaders will update members of the news media on OFT-2 during a briefing on Wednesday, May 18, at 1 p.m. The briefing will air live on NASA TV, the NASA app, and the agency’s website. Participants include:
Bob Cabana, NASA associate administrator
Janet Petro, director, NASA’s Kennedy Space Center
Kathryn Lueders, associate administrator, Space Operations Mission Directorate at NASA
NASA astronaut Suni Williams
NASA astronaut Butch Wilmore
NASA astronaut Mike Fincke
NASA TV will cover the upcoming prelaunch, launch, and docking activities. Mission coverage is as follows (all times Eastern):
Thursday, May 19
6 p.m. – NASA TV launch coverage begins for a targeted 6:54 p.m. liftoff. NASA TV will have continuous coverage through Starliner orbital insertion.
9 p.m. (approximately) – Postlaunch news conference on NASA TV
Friday, May 20
3:30 p.m. – NASA TV rendezvous and docking coverage begins.
7:10 p.m. (approximately) – Docking
Friday, May 21
11:30 a.m. – NASA TV hatch opening coverage begins
11:45 a.m. – (approximately) Hatch opening and welcoming remarks
Weather forecasters are predicting a 70% chance for favorable weather when Boeing’s OFT-2 mission is scheduled to launch at 6:54 p.m. EDT on Thursday. The Starliner spacecraft will lift off atop the Atlas-V rocket from United Launch Alliance at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Starliner will take a 24-hour automated trip to the station where it will dock to the Harmony module’s forward port for five to 10 days of cargo and test operations.
NASA Flight Engineers Kjell Lindgren and Bob Hines spent an hour on Tuesday reviewing procedures for Starliner’s approach and docking. The duo will be on duty Friday monitoring Starliner during its three-and-a-half hours of automated approach maneuvers before docking at 7:10 p.m. EDT on Friday.
Lindgren later spent the afternoon participating in a robotics proficiency test before installing seed cartridges and root modules for the xROOTS space botany study. Hines worked on U.S. spacesuit maintenance, partnering with astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti of ESA (European Space Agency), swapping and stowing components planned for return on an upcoming SpaceX cargo mission.
NASA Flight Engineer Jessica Watkins finished wearing a headband and vest after 24 hours for the Bio-Monitor experiment that monitors an astronaut’s health without interfering with mobility. Watkins also checked her blood pressure throughout the day for the Vascular Echo study that examines changes in blood vessels and cardiac activity in microgravity.
The station’s three cosmonauts from Roscosmos focused on their list of science and maintenance tasks in the orbiting lab’s Russian segment. Flight Engineer Sergey Korsakov updated software and replaced a laptop computer then explored ways to improve communications between station crew members and mission controllers from around the world. Commander Oleg Artemyev and Flight Engineer Denis Matveev joined each other Tuesday morning and serviced exercise gear. The duo then split up to work on broadband communications gear and inventory tools.
Human research, space botany, and robotics were the main research themes for the Expedition 67 crew aboard the International Space Station on Thursday. Meanwhile, mission managers conducted a Flight Readiness Review ahead of the launch of Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission scheduled for next week.
The orbiting lab’s four astronauts, including Flight Engineers Kjell Lindgren, Bob Hines, Jessica Watkins, and Samantha Cristoforetti, kicked off the day with a quick health check. The quartet used the EveryWear app on an iPad that collects and downloads medical data for review by doctors on Earth. A variety of hardware such as a smart shirt that records cardiac activity, a wireless sensor that monitors heart rate, and a tonometer that measures pressure in eyes and blood vessels, contributes to the data that EveryWear collects.
Lindgren, Hines, and Watkins also took turns collecting and stowing their blood and urine samples for later analysis. Cristoforetti spent most of her morning on the Acoustic Diagnostics experiment that explores how the station’s noise levels affect a crew member’s hearing.
Lindgren also worked on the XROOTS botany study that investigates using hydroponic and aeroponic techniques to grow plants in microgravity. Afterward, he joined Hines and reviewed procedures for operating the Astrobee robotic free-flying assistants. Watkins and Cristoforetti worked on orbital plumbing tasks and cupola window maintenance respectively.
The station’s three cosmonauts, Commander Oleg Artemyev and Flight Engineers Denis Matveev and Sergey Korsakov, continued their complement of science and maintenance tasks in the station’s Russian segment.
NASA and Boeing mission managers completed a Flight Readiness Review on Wednesday and are proceeding toward the launch of the OFT-2 mission at 6:54 p.m. EDT on Thursday, May 19. Boeing’s unpiloted Starliner will lift off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida and automatically dock to the Harmony module’s forward port about 24 hours later. It will stay at the station for cargo and test operations for five to 10 days before parachuting back to Earth.
Teams from NASA, Boeing and United Launch Alliance completed a launch readiness review on July 27 ahead of NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 mission to the International Space Station. The launch teams still are “go” for launch of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on a mission to the microgravity laboratory on the company’s second uncrewed flight test.
Launch is scheduled at 2:53 p.m. EDT on Friday, July 30, on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida.
At 1 p.m., NASA will host a prelaunch news briefing at the agency’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Participants are:
Steve Stich, manager, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program
Joel Montalbano, manager, NASA’s International Space Station Program
John Vollmer, vice president and program manager, Boeing Commercial Crew Program
Gary Wentz, vice president, Government and Commercial Programs, ULA
Jennifer Buchli, deputy chief scientist, NASA’s International Space Station Program
Will Ulrich, launch weather officer, U.S. Space Force, 45th Weather Squadron
For a launch Friday, meteorologists with the U.S. Space Force 45th Weather Squadron are predicting a 40% chance of favorable weather. The primary weather concerns for launch day are the cumulus cloud rule, surface electric rule and lightning rule violations during the instantaneous launch window.