NASA and Boeing have announced the target date for the launch of the second uncrewed flight test for the Starliner spacecraft. The second test will happen no earlier than Thursday, March 25. Orbital Flight Test-2 is a critical development milestone on Boeing’s path to use Starliner and fly astronauts to the ISS for NASA.
The March 25 target date was allowed by an opening on the Eastern Range, the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket’s availability, steady progress on hardware and software, and ISS docking opportunity. Boeing mated the reusable crew module to a new service module inside the Starliner production facility at Kennedy Space Center in Florida. Currently, teams are completing the vehicle interior outfitting before cargo is loaded and final checkouts are completed.
Boeing has also completed the formal requalification for Starliner’s OFT-2 flight software. That certification process included a full software review and testing to verify the software met the required design specifications. Boeing still has to complete an end-to-end simulation of the OFT-2 test flight using flight hardware and the final version of the flight software to model vehicle behavior for flight.
The full test flight will require Boeing to launch Starliner aboard the Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. Once in orbit, the capsule will dock at the space station and then return to land in the western United States about a week later. The mission’s successful completion will mark an end-to-end test flight highlighting the entire system is ready for flight with crew aboard. Currently, SpaceX is the only American company certified to carry astronauts into orbit.