It’s a long road to getting a spacecraft certified to carry cargo and astronauts to and from the ISS in orbit above the Earth. NASA and Boeing have announced they have completed an integrated mission dress rehearsal using a simulation for the Starliner Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2). OFT-2 will see the Starliner fly to the space station as part of the NASA Commercial Crew Program.
The simulated mission was conducted primarily inside the Boeing Avionics and Software Integration Lab (ASIL) located in Houston, Texas. The most recent simulated mission was a five-day end-to-end mission simulation known as the ASIL Mission Rehearsal, or AMR. Boeing’s team spent several months preparing hardware and software for the simulated mission, including running communications channels, mapping simulated sensor data, verifying flight procedures, and completing runs.
Boeing’s Chad Schaeffer, commercial crew software certification manager, said that the AMR is one of many “examples of Boeing’s commitment to flying NASA astronauts as safely as possible.” Schaeffer also noted that the joint Boeing and NASA system and software teams worked very closely to prepare for the OFT-2 mission. That preparation has included building stronger relationships between the teams and working on improved processes for commercial operations.
During the simulated test mission, teams in flight control rooms at Johnson Space Center in Houston commanded the simulation using actual flight procedures. Testing began 26 hours before launching, and continued through docking, space station operations, 32 hours of power-up procedures ahead of undocking, landing, and powering the capsule down.
NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Mike Fincke participated in the simulated mission and monitored events from inside the lab using crew displays connected to the simulation. Boeing noted that an AMR would be conducted before every future flight to serve as an additional confidence and integration test. That was recommended by the NASA/Boeing Joint Independent Review Team after Starliner’s first test flight.