Boeing CST-100 Starliner takes a big step towards launch

Boeing and SpaceX are among the two companies that are working to bring the ability to put astronauts into space back to America. The Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft that will someday carry humans into orbit and beyond has passed another milestone on its path towards its first flight.Starliner rolled out of the Boeing Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at Kennedy Space Center on November 21. The vehicle made the trip out of the facility on a transport vehicle to Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station.

Once the spacecraft was at the launch pad, it was hoisted up at the Vertical Integration Facility and secured atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket for the flight test to the ISS. The Atlas V rocket that will be used for the launch has a booster stage, dual-engine Centaur upper stage, and a pair of solid rocket boosters.

The first flight will be uncrewed, and that launch is targeted for December 17. The launch will give the team valuable data on the end-to-end performance of the Atlas V rocket, Starliner spacecraft, and ground systems. It will also provide data on in-orbit, docking, and landing operations.

The data gathered will be used as part of the NASA certification process needed to carry astronauts to and from the ISS eventually. Once the commercial crew capsules are ready for use, it will mark the first time since 2011 that the US has had the capability of putting its astronauts into orbit. The US lost that capability when it retired the space shuttle fleet. NASA astronaut Mike Fincke says that he looks forward to when we are launching people regularly.