Orbital Flight Test Progress
Boeing is now targeting August for its uncrewed Orbital Flight Test, although this date is a working date and to be confirmed.
The decision to adjust that launch date was guided by limited launch opportunities in April and May, as well as a critical U.S. Air Force national security launch – AEHF-5 – atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 in June.
"The uncrewed flight tests provide a wealth of data for us to analyze every phase of flight," said Steve Stich, NASA's Commercial Crew Program deputy manager. "They offer a phenomenal opportunity for us to evaluate the end-to-end performance of the systems, and really set us up for flight tests with crew. Our Boeing and NASA teams are making tremendous progress without compromising safety as we prepare for launch."
While the Starliner spacecraft for the Orbital Flight Test is close to complete, the additional time will allow teams to thoroughly focus on the test and validation activities well ahead of launch.
"We remain diligent, with a safety-first culture," said John Mulholland, vice president and program manager, Boeing's Commercial Crew Program. "While we have already made substantial progress this year, this shift gives us the time to continue building a safe, quality spacecraft capable of carrying crews over and over again after a successful uncrewed test, without adding unnecessary schedule pressure."
Above: A look at the Starliner that will soon fly the uncrewed Orbital Flight Test soon after the dome mate activities at the Boeing Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center. (Boeing)
Boeing's Starliner spacecraft for the uncrewed flight test is nearly complete. This spacecraft is designed to be reusable up to 10 times, and will be used for the company's first full operational mission after certification. The Starliner team is working to complete all of the critical testing and integration on the spacecraft to ensure the shortest possible time between the completion of the uncrewed flight and the first launch of crew, and then to operational missions to station.
On March 11, Boeing mated the upper and lower domes of the same spacecraft inside its Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The two domes underwent outfitting with avionics, cooling systems, wire harnesses, fuel and life support lines, and other critical systems before being mated together. This is one of the last major milestones ahead of final processing and closeouts for flight.
NASA and Boeing teams also completed two parachute tests. In February, a "lawn dart" dropped out of a C-17 aircraft over the Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona, and the parachutes performed as planned. These reliability tests are part of a special studies program NASA initiated to validate the robust design of Starliner's parachute systems. Then in March at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico, Boeing completed the fourth of five parachute qualification tests. Successful completion of all five tests will qualify the entire Starliner landing system for flight with crew.
Another key milestone for the capsule included successful range of motion testing on the docking adapter – known as the NASA Docking System, or NDS – that will connect Starliner to the space station's Harmony module later this year.