OFT-2 Starliner spacecraft fueled in advance of late-July launch
After over a year of unexpected delays, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is poised to take to the skies in its final proving run before carrying astronauts.
Teams at NASA and Boeing have finished fueling the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft in preparation for its second uncrewed orbital flight test, OFT-2, which is currently expected to take place at 2:53 p.m. EDT (18:53 UTC) July 30, 2021. The main task for its roughly week-long mission is to demonstrate autonomous rendezvous and docking capabilities with the International Space Station.
The first uncrewed flight test, OFT-1, failed to reach the ISS in December 2019 after several software issues prevented the spacecraft from entering the correct orbit. It was commanded to return to Earth after two days.
Once teams have finished fueling the OFT-2 Starliner spacecraft, it will be transported a few miles south from its current location at the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to United Launch Alliance’s Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station’s Space Launch Complex 41. Once it arrives, it will be mated to the top of the Atlas 5 N22 rocket that will carry it to space at the end of July.
Earlier this month, NASA and Boeing completed all action items recommended by the joint NASA-Boeing readiness review team following the series of anomalies experienced on Starliner’s first orbital flight test.
The myriad of suggested action items included process and integration improvements, crew module communication improvements and overall systemic organizational changes at Boeing. The company completed all of these items to prove the overall safety of its capsule. Now, Boeing and NASA are ready to try again.
“I am extremely proud of the NASA and Boeing Starliner teams as they methodically work toward the OFT-2 mission next month with final checks of the crew module and service module hardware and software as we prepare for this important uncrewed test mission.” said Steve Stich, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program manager, in an agency news release. “Closing all of the Independent Review Team findings for the software and communications systems is a huge milestone for the Commercial Crew Program and included many long hours of testing and reviews by our dedicated Boeing and NASA teams during this Covid-19 pandemic.”
In Houston, teams at NASA and Boeing continue to run through flight simulations in preparation for both the upcoming uncrewed flight test and the first crewed flight test, CFT, of Starliner. Assuming OFT-2 goes well at the end of July, NASA and Boeing could potentially see the first astronauts aboard Starliner before the end of the year.
Having a life-long interest in crewed space flight, Desforges’ passion materialized on a family vacation in 1999 when he was able see the launch of Space Shuttle Discovery on STS-96. Since then, Desforges has been an enthusiast of space exploration efforts. He lived in Orlando, Florida for a year, during which time he had the opportunity to witness the flights of the historic CRS-4 and EFT-1 missions in person at Cape Canaveral. He earned his Private Pilot Certificate in 2017, holds a degree in Aviation Management, and currently works as an Operations Analyst in the aviation industry in Georgia.