We’re now just a day away from the highly anticipated test flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station (ISS).
The uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) is considered high-stakes as it follows a failed test mission in 2019 when the spacecraft was unable to enter the correct orbit to take it to the ISS. Following a thorough investigation, software issues were pinpointed as the cause.
A second flight attempt in August last year failed to get off the ground after an issue was spotted with valves linked to Starliner’s propulsion system on its service module.
Ahead of Thursday’s launch from Cape Canaveral in Florida, the mission team rolled the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and Starliner spacecraft from the Kennedy Space Center’s Vertical Integration Facility to the launchpad a short distance away.
Boeing posted a video (below) that includes a time-lapse showing the space vehicle heading to the launchpad on Wednesday.
#Starliner and #AtlasV have rolled to the launch pad on @ulalaunch's Space Launch Complex-41. This is one of the final milestones before it launches May 19 to the @Space_Station on its #OFT2 journey. pic.twitter.com/3ofiuABCum
— Boeing Space (@BoeingSpace) May 18, 2022
Another video showed the rocket and spacecraft on the launchpad during nightfall on Wednesday:
— Boeing Space (@BoeingSpace) May 19, 2022
If everything goes to plan, the Starliner spacecraft will dock with the ISS about 24 hours after launch. It will stay at the orbital outpost for up to 10 days before returning to Earth in a parachute-assisted landing in New Mexico.
“The flight test, which includes orbital maneuvering, International Space Station rendezvous, docking, undocking, and landing operations, will validate all of the critical systems and capabilities ahead of Boeing’s first flight carrying astronauts to and from the ISS,” Boeing said in a message posted on its website.
The crewed test flight could take place in the next 12 months and would send the Starliner on the same route to and from the space station. A successful crewed mission would allow NASA to use the spacecraft for future astronaut flights to and from the ISS, giving it another transportation option alongside SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, which has been conducting regular astronaut flights since the summer of 2020.
Fancy watching Boeing’s crucial mission get underway? Digital Trends has all the information you need to watch Thursday’s livestream.
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