NASA announces Boeing Starliner OFT-2 mission date for Commercial Crew Program

NASA along with Boeing announced that it targets to launch the second uncrewed flight test of Starliner no earlier than March 25 under the agency’s Commercial Crew Program. The agency states that Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2), is a very critical milestone, which will ultimately lead to the company flying crew missions for NASA to the International Space Station (ISS).

To recall, Elon Musk‘s SpaceX has already passed all of these tests and completed its first commercial crew rotation mission to and from the ISS last year under the Commercial Crew Program.

The agency claims that the target launch date has been enabled due to a lot of things lining up just right. These things include an opening on the Eastern Range, availability of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, steady progress on hardware and software, and an ISS docking opportunity.

Boeing recently completed the requalification process for its Starliner OFT-2 flight software. During this, the company conducted a full software review and several series of tests to verify that Starliner’s software meets the design specifications provided by NASA. The company has also stated that soon it will be completing an end-to-end simulation of the OFT-2 test flight. This will be completed using flight hardware and final versions of Starliner’s flight software, which will be used to model the vehicle’s expected behaviour before the flight.

The OFT-2 mission will launch Starliner aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket. The launch will take place from the Space Launch Complex-41, located at Cape Canaveral, Florida. The Starliner will dock to the ISS and make its journey back, finally landing in the western United States about a week later. This will play a huge part in the end-to-end flight testing, thus proving that the system can host a flight crew.

To recall, Boeing recently mated its reusable crew module during a test on its new service module inside of the Starliner production factory, located inside of the Kennedy Space Center. It stated that teams have been working very hard to complete Starliner’s interior before loading cargo and conducting final spacecraft checkouts.

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