After two failed attempts to send Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS) in a crucial test flight, the team is now just a couple of weeks away from trying again.
Preparations took a big step forward at the launch site at NASA’s Cape Canaveral facility in Florida on Wednesday as the Starliner was placed atop the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket that will power it to orbit in a crewless flight on May 19.
Boeing posted a video showing the Starliner’s journey from an on-site factory to the ULA Vertical Integration Facility, where the spacecraft was hoisted onto the top of the rocket.
Join the journey as teammates rolled #Starliner out of our factory to @ulalaunch's Vertical Integration Facility. Starliner is stacked on the #AtlasV that will launch it on Orbital Flight Test-2 for @Commercial_Crew.
Teams are excited for the world to see the launch on May 19. pic.twitter.com/I1Alqqkp9f
— Boeing Space (@BoeingSpace) May 4, 2022
The aerospace giant also posted a set of photos showing the Starliner on its way to being attached to the launch vehicle.
The @BoeingSpace CST-100 #Starliner spacecraft is mounted atop to its ride to space, the United Launch Alliance #AtlasV rocket, in preparation for launch of the Orbital Flight Test-2 in collaboration with @NASA's @Commercial_Crew Program.
— ULA (@ulalaunch) May 4, 2022
Assuming the Starliner spacecraft gets away as planned on May 19, the Atlas V rocket will deliver it to a 98-nautical-mile sub-orbital trajectory. After separating from Atlas V, the Starliner will use its own engines to take it the rest of the way to orbit and onward to the space station. The spacecraft will stay docked at the ISS for up to 10 days before returning to Earth for a parachute-assisted landing in New Mexico.
If the mission goes according to plan, NASA will have another spacecraft — alongside SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule — for astronaut flights to the ISS.
But it’s fair to say it’s been a rocky road for Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft. Its first test flight, in December 2019, ended in failure when it was unable to reach the correct orbit to send it to the ISS. A subsequent investigation uncovered a slew of software issues with the spacecraft’s onboard systems, all of which were resolved.
NASA and Boeing planned for a second test flight in August 2021, but the mission was called off close to launch after engineers discovered valve problems linked to the Starliner’s propulsion system. Since then, the team has been working on making everything right for this month’s mission.
“Super proud of the Starliner team and the NASA team over the last eight months,” Steve Stich, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Manager, said earlier this week. “It’s been a hard eight months, I would say, but very fulfilling that we’ve resolved the problem with the oxidizer isolation valves and we’re headed on toward launch.”
The highly anticipated mission will be livestreamed by NASA. Check back soon for full details on the launch time and how to watch.
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