Over the summer, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner team has focused on readying the next vehicle for its upcoming test flight and incorporating recommendations that were identified during various reviews completed earlier in the year. While hardware production continues at the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility (C3PF) at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida, progress is being made on software coding and testing mostly in Houston.
On the production side, teams are well into final assembly of the crew and service modules that will fly the next mission. This will be the first flight of the reusable crew module, and the Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) will give operational teams on-orbit experience with both crew modules in the Starliner fleet before astronauts take flight. Of note, recent progress includes NASA docking system cover checkouts, propellant heater installation, landing airbag installation and thermal protection system tile installation. As final production activities continue, the crew module entered an acceptance test, which will prove out the systems on the spacecraft.
The software team is also nearing the final stages of modifying and re-verifying the flight code after the first flight test. The team recently began a major milestone called Formal Qualification Testing. This is the last and most comprehensive test of the flight software and, upon successful completion, the software will be ready for flight.
Nearly 75 percent of the recommendations from the recently completed joint NASA-Boeing Independent Review Team have been implemented. Boeing elected to implement all recommendations even though only the highest of the three priority classifications were deemed mandatory before the next flight.
Boeing and NASA are currently targeting December for the launch of OFT-2, pending hardware readiness, flight software qualification, and launch vehicle and space station manifest priorities. After a successful OFT-2, Boeing and NASA will fly Starliner’s first crewed mission, the Crew Flight Test, in June of 2021, with the first post-certification mission, Starliner-1, tentatively scheduled for December 2021.