KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – Boeing’s astronaut capsule Starliner made the journey from NASA’s Kennedy Space Center to a Cape Canaveral launch facility Thursday ahead of the spacecraft’s first test flight to the International Space Station next month.
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft are undergoing testing as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The companies were awarded multi-billion dollar contracts by NASA to fill the void left by the end of the space shuttle program in 2011.
The fueled Starliner spacecraft began the 14-mile journey before sunrise Thursday from Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility to ULA’s Space Launch Complex 41 Vertical Integration Facility on Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.
Later Thursday, Starliner was hoisted on top of ULA’s Atlas V rocket, where it will await final processing before launch.
The Atlas V was previously assembled inside the SLC 41 Vertical Integration Facility awaiting its payload. The pair will be moved to the pad together ahead of launch.
Boeing and ULA are targeting Dec. 17 for the Orbital Test Flight 1, or OFT-1, for the first test flight to the International Space Station.
Starliner will not carry astronauts for the test flight to the ISS, but if all goes well, two NASA astronauts and Boeing’s test pilot will be on board for the next flight.
For the past eight years, the U.S. has paid Russia more than $80 million a seat to launch NASA astronauts.
A recent NASA Office of Inspector General report indicted NASA will pay an average of $90 million per seat to fly astronauts with Boeing and an average of $55 million per seat with SpaceX. Boeing disputed that number, saying it doesn’t account for the cargo and supplies Starliner will also launch to the ISS.
“Boeing will fly the equivalent of a fifth passenger in cargo for NASA, so the per-seat pricing should be considered based on five seats rather than four,” a statement from the company read. “For proprietary, competitive reasons Boeing does not disclose specific pricing information, but we are confident our average seat pricing to NASA is below the figure cited.”
Learn more about the Starliner and its capabilities in the graphic below: