NASA and Boeing are targeting March 29 for the launch of Starliner’s second uncrewed flight test to the International Space Station as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) is a critical developmental milestone on the company’s path toward flying crew missions for NASA.
During OFT-2, the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida, dock to the International Space Station and return to land in the western United States about a week later as part of an end-to-end test to prove the system is ready to fly crew.
The OFT-2 Starliner spacecraft is nearing final assembly inside the company’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The vehicle’s reusable crew module has been powered up and final checkouts of the avionics, power and propulsion systems are nearing completion. The spacecraft’s parachutes, landing airbags, base heat shield, and its back shells are installed signifying the completion of the vehicle build phase. In the coming weeks, teams will load the crew module with cargo, including Rosie the Rocketeer, and weigh the vehicle before mating it to its service module, which is already complete.
In parallel, Boeing technicians continue to refurbish the crew module flown on Starliner’s first Orbital Flight Test while also building a brand-new service module for NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT), which is targeted for launch in summer 2021, following a successful OFT-2 mission.
NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore, Mike Fincke, and Nicole Mann continue to train for CFT, the inaugural crewed flight of the Starliner spacecraft. After the completion of both test flights, NASA astronauts Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada and Jeanette Epps will launch on the Starliner-1 mission, the first of six crew rotation missions NASA and Boeing will fly as part of the agency’s Commercial Crew Program.
Formal qualification of Starliner’s flight software also is underway inside Boeing’s Avionics and Software Integration Lab in Houston. Teams are running both static and dynamic testing of the vehicle’s software to ensure it’s coded as designed and incorporates all mission requirements. Test teams then will perform an entire end-to-end mission scenario, from prelaunch to docking and undocking to landing, using a high-fidelity suite of hardware before flying the OFT-2 mission.
“NASA and Boeing are doing a tremendous amount of work on all aspects of their flight software running numerous cases through the Boeing high fidelity simulation environment that includes the Starliner avionics,” said Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
Boeing has worked hand-in-hand with NASA to address all of the lessons learned from Starliner’s first flight. The company is more than 90% complete in closing out all the recommended actions developed by a joint NASA and Boeing Independent Review Team, even those that were not mandatory, ahead of Starliner’s second uncrewed flight test.
United Launch Alliance also is making progress with the OFT-2 Atlas V hardware at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida and ready for processing for the upcoming OFT-2 launch. The Centaur upper stage for CFT is complete, and all hardware for the CFT mission is on track for an early 2021 delivery to the launch site. The hardware to support Starliner-1 is in progress.
“The progress we’re making ahead of Starliner’s next flight is laying the groundwork for safe and reliable transportation services for NASA and a variety of customers for many years to come,” said John Vollmer, Starliner’s vice president and program manager at Boeing. “With each vehicle closeout, line of code tested, and document delivered, we’re on a path to proving we have a robust, fully operational vehicle. It’s truly a team with effort with NASA and our industry partners.”