KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. – NASA and Boeing managers are pushing the upcoming Crew Flight Test (CFT) of the Starliner capsule to mid-July as it navigates verification work for the capsule, plus other launches in May and June.
The agencies announced plans for a crewed Starliner launch on top of an Atlas V rocket for no earlier than July 21. There is a government launch scheduled for that day from United Launch Alliance using the same launch pad.
“We’ll have to go work with other government agencies and United Launch Alliance to secure the slot and we know that’s forward work coming out today but we just wanted to sit down with you and explain where we’re at relative to CFT,” said Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
The launch was pushed back from April to sometime after the launch of the Axiom Mission 2 in May to allow more time for “readiness and complete verification work.” It will happen around a year after Starliner’s maiden orbital test flight.
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Boeing and NASA said certification for the parachute system on Starliner is one of the sticking points, and they also want to do additional software testing for the capsule’s backup system.
There are also missions like the Axiom Ax-2 mission, as well as a SpaceX cargo mission. A Soyuz capsule docked at the International Space Station also has to move. There are some spacewalks in between as well.
“It’s really more it’s taking longer than expected for... us to get the product over to NASA. And it’s taken a little bit longer for NASA to review it with us. So that’s really the reason for the poke out and then once we get to the end of May, we start running into the traffic on ISS which contributes to the rest of the delay,” Program Manager Mark Nappi said.
The mission, which will bring NASA astronaut test pilots Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Suni Williams to the ISS in the Starliner spacecraft, is meant to be the capsule’s last test before it is certified for regular ISS crew rotation flights.
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