For July 30, NASA and Boeing have scheduled a second uncrewed test flight of the CST-100 Starliner commercial crew spacecraft. In separate statements, the company and the agency said they were planning to launch the Starliner on the Orbital Flight Test (OFT) 2 mission on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 at 2:53 p.m. Eastern July 30. A launch that day would allow the spacecraft to dock with the International Space Station on the evening of July 31.
At a Boeing facility in Houston, NASA and Boeing completed an integrated mission dress rehearsal for the mission using a simulator, and after this new launch date comes. Activities covered starting 26 hours before launch in the five-day simulation and going through landing, including docking and undocking from the station.
According to John Vollmer, program manager at Boeing and Starliner vice president, “It provided another opportunity to run the software end to end with the highest-fidelity hardware and mission controllers in the loop to simulate as close to an actual flight as possible.”
An independent review team suggested actions that Boeing has completed after the original OFT mission in December 2019, which faced many problems and couldn’t reach ISS. The Starliner that will fly the OFT-2 mission is ready at this point. Boeing will now focus on processing the spacecraft used for the later Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission until it’s time for prelaunch activities for OFT-2 in midsummer.
The spacecraft is nearly ready, but Boeing has to wait until late July to launch because vehicles visit the ISS and launch schedules on the Eastern Range. The one port of the ISS is currently used by the Crew-2 Crew Dragon spacecraft, and the other one will be used by a cargo Dragon mission launching June 3. Starliner can dock at one of two ports on the station.
According to Bob Cabana, director of the Kennedy Space Center in the ISS, the traffic model is something else. Between the different crew vehicles going back and forth and all the different resupply vehicles, it is becoming difficult to find a space to dock up there.