NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2: What to know
During a Tuesday news conference, agency members said NASA’s Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) is aiming to launch the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station at 6:54 p.m. ET on Thursday.
Steve Stitch, the manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew program, docking would occur about 24 hours later.
The backup window for the flight is slated for 6:32 p.m. ET on Friday.
Starliner is carrying more than 800 pounds of cargo, including about 500 pounds of NASA cargo and crew supplies.
With a new reusable crew module and a new service module, during the mission, OFT-2 will test the end-to-end capabilities of Starliner, providing valuable data that will help NASA certify Boeing’s crew transportation system.
Although no crew will be onboard the spacecraft for OFT-2, NASA notes that the Starliner commander’s seat will be occupied by Rosie the Rocketeer, the company’s anthropometric test device.
“During Starliner’s approach to the space station, NASA and Boeing will verify data links and command capabilities by the station crew, including a hold during approach commanded from the station by NASA astronaut Kjell Lindgren aboard station. Starliner also will demonstrate its ability to perform an automated retreat in the event an issue arises during approach,” NASA wrote.
Starliner’s vision-based navigation system will also be tested as it autonomously docks with the International Space Station (ISS).
After docking, Starliner will spend five to 10 days aboard the ISS before its return with nearly 600 pounds of cargo.
OFT-2 will test changes and improvements made to Starliner, and Boeing is flying the second orbital test to prove the Starliner system meets NASA’s requirements.
Following a successful flight test and data reviews, NASA and Boeing will set a target launch date for the Crew Flight Test (CFT), with astronauts on board.
Dana Wiegel, the deputy manager of NASA’s International Space Station program, said OFT-2 is a “critical step… in moving towards having two routinely flying crewed vehicles who can bring our crew to and from ISS.”
Mark Nappi, the vice president and program manager of Boeing’s Commercial Crew program, said all checks had been completed, the hatch is closed, and one last cycle of all valves operated nominally.