Boeing and NASA continue testing in preparation for the upcoming Crew Flight Test scheduled to launch in April 2023. On Dec. 20, the teams successfully completed an integrated mission dress rehearsal to the International Space Station (ISS). Combining tests of software and crew systems along with operations teams, the ASIL Mission Rehearsal (AMR) took place over the course of several days at Boeing’s Avionics and Software Integration Lab (ASIL) located in Houston.
During the AMR, NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore, Suni Williams and Mike Fincke worked through mission milestones in coordination with mission operations teams located inside flight control rooms at NASA’s Johnson Space Center. Starliner engineering teammates also supported the rehearsal from Boeing’s Mission Control Center located in Florida.
The crew worked in a flight deck simulator networked to control rooms and flight-like avionics that operated the same software as will be used during the upcoming test flight. They operated controls as they would do during the mission itself to show that the software is ready to operate the spacecraft from pre-launch, launch, docking to the space station, undocking and the return to Earth through landing.
The AMR provided end-to-end testing of hardware configuration, software, communications, preparation configuring hardware and software, routing communications channels, and mapping simulated sensor data. Similar testing was performed ahead of the successful Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) uncrewed mission in early 2022. Similar to the OFT-2 AMR, the CFT AMR ran for over 100 hours since both flight tests planned for a “Day 2” docking and about a week-long stay attached to the ISS.
“We began conducting AMRs with the creation of OFT-2, and the integrated team has continued to get more efficient with each rehearsal,” said Aaron Kraftcheck, Starliner avionics, software integration and test manager. “With the participation of our astronauts in this CFT AMR, we have enhanced the team dynamics, and continued to learn and adjust, which is what AMR is all about.”
A test of systems and software, the successful AMR milestone paves the way for CFT, though many more simulations and training sessions lie ahead before the astronauts lift off on the first mission to the ISS by the new spacecraft. Up next for Kraftcheck and his Hardware / Software Integration teammates is working with the crew and flight controllers on various integrated failure scenarios to ensure everyone is fully trained and prepared for anything that could arise during Starliner’s first flight test with astronauts. Then, attention will turn to a series of flight-day parameter updates that will become available as the team nears launch day.