Boeing targets July for Starliner test flight to space station

Orbital test flight-2: July 30 at 2:53 p.m.

Starliner vice president and program manager, John Vollmer, watches the docking portion of Boeing’s simulated Orbital Flight Test-2 mission with other senior leaders and software integrators inside the company’s Avionics and Software Integration Lab in Houston, Texas. (Image Credit: Boeing) (WKMG 2021)

BREVARD COUNTY, Fla. – Boeing and NASA revealed a new target launch date in July to repeat the orbital test flight of the company’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft.

Starliner is a Boeing spacecraft designed and built under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program to fly astronauts to and from the International Space Station. The company has been working toward certifying the capsule to fly humans and this uncrewed test flight is the final step in that process.

In an update Thursday, Boeing said the Starliner CST-100 spacecraft will be ready later this month but due to launch availability with United Launch Alliance and docking at the high-traffic International Space Station, that launch is now tentatively scheduled for 2:53 p.m. July 30.

This launch date and time will only stick if it lines up with the space station schedule and range availability. Either way, Boeing says it will be ready.

ULA will launch Starliner on a Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Launch Complex 41.

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The company and NASA recently used software to run a simulation of the orbital test flight-2, known as OFT-2, over a period of five days. The result was a successful docking at the ISS and bull’s-eye landing in New Mexico.

“NASA and Boeing have done an incredible amount of work to get to this point,” NASA Commercial Crew Program manager Steve Stich said in a statement. “Our teams are ready for this important mission due to the coordinated efforts of many, including United Launch Alliance, NASA’s Launch Services Program, and the U.S. Space Force, which enabled us to establish this launch opportunity. We are looking forward to a successful OFT-2 mission.”

Boeing first conducted the orbital flight test in December 2019 but after launching on the ULA Atlas V rocket, the spacecraft was forced to return to Earth instead of docking at the ISS. As a result, the company has made corrections to the spacecraft and will repeat the OFT again before NASA certifies Starliner to fly astronauts to and from the space station under the agency’s commercial crew program.

Boeing also continues to prepare for its first Starliner flight with astronauts to the space station, known as the crew flight test. On that flight, NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore, Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann will be the inaugural crew in the Starliner spacecraft.

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