Boeing targets December Starliner astronaut capsule test flight
Uncrewed launch will follow November launch abort test
CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. – Boeing is targeting mid-December for the first test flight of its astronaut capsule Starliner from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station, a Boeing Space spokesman confirmed to News 6.
Boeing is targeting Dec. 17 for the first launch of CST-100 Starliner on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V from Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station. The mission is known as the orbital flight test or OFT.
The capsule will dock at the space station and spend about a week there before deorbiting and landing in the U.S. at one of several possible locations.
Ahead of the OFT, Boeing will conduct a pad abort test, again without crew, on Nov. 4 at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. During that event, Starliner will fire its thrusters launching off ground, demonstrating the ability to shuttle astronauts away to safety in case of a failure on the launch pad.
The date of the first crewed test flight is dependent on how the results of the abort test and uncrewed flight. NASA astronauts Michael Fincke, Nicole Mann and Boeing test pilot Chris Ferguson will be on that flight. Ferguson is a former NASA astronaut and retired U.S. Navy captain who now works for the Boeing Starliner program.
SpaceNews.com first reported the new dates after Boeing's program manager for commercial programs, John Mulholland, revealed the targeted dates during a panel discussion at the International Symposium for Personal and Commercial Spaceflight.
Boeing's uncrewed launch was set for September but after leadership changes within the NASA program in July all commercial crew flight dates were under review.
"The NASA Administrator has directed all programs in the Human Exploration and Operations Directorate to reexamine flight dates once new leadership is in place to deliver realistic schedule plans," according to an updated posted July 30 to NASA.gov.
Both Boeing and SpaceX are developing spacecraft to shuttle astronauts to and from the International Space Station under NASA's commercial crew program.
The test flights and abort tests, among many other tests, are all working toward earning NASA's certification to carry astronauts on board.
NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine will be at SpaceX headquarters in California Thursday for an update on the company's astronaut capsule Crew Dragon.
SpaceX had a successful uncrewed test flight of Crew Dragon to the ISS in March but during a ground test the capsule was destroyed.
The first crewed launch with NASA astronauts Bob Behnken and Doug Hurley has not been scheduled. SpaceX also has to complete an inflight abort test.
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