Thursday afternoon, Boeing is slated to launch its passenger spacecraft, the CST-100 Starliner, to the Worldwide House Station for the second time with out individuals on board. The mission, known as OFT-2, is a part of an elaborate costume rehearsal that may assist pave the way in which for individuals to experience on the car sooner or later.
As we speak’s mission is a crucial milestone as Boeing works to certify the car for human spaceflight. Boeing developed Starliner as a part of NASA’s Business Crew Program, an initiative that tasked non-public corporations with creating spacecraft able to carrying NASA astronauts to and from the Worldwide House Station. NASA’s different Business Crew supplier, SpaceX, is already ferrying astronauts to the ISS regularly. However having Boeing’s Starliner within the combine will give NASA what it likes to name “dissimilar redundancy” — two totally different transportation choices in case one goes out of fee.
That is Boeing’s second try on the check flight after a earlier effort in 2019. Within the first try, a sequence of software program points and a communications blackout prevented the car from stepping into the right orbit, and Boeing needed to convey Starliner dwelling early. One other deliberate launch final summer time bought scrubbed simply hours earlier than liftoff resulting from some sticky propellant valves. Now, after years of labor to treatment these points, Boeing is able to strive once more.
What time does Starliner take off?
Takeoff is scheduled for six:54PM ET out of Cape Canaveral Air Drive Station in Florida.
Scheduled time: New York: 6:54PM / San Francisco: 3:54PM / London: 11:54PM / Berlin: 12:54AM / Moscow: 1:54AM / New Delhi: 4:24AM / Beijing: 6:54AM / Tokyo: 7:54AM / Melbourne: 8:54AM
How can I watch the flight?
NASA plans to livestream protection of the flight on its devoted channel NASA TV, which may be discovered on YouTube and NASA’s web site. Protection begins at 6PM ET.
What can I anticipate from the mission?
OFT-2 ought to comply with the fundamental construction of a flight to the Worldwide House Station as if individuals have been using on board. Within the curiosity of realism, engineers have positioned a model known as Rosie the Rocketeer (named as an homage to Rosie the Riveter) contained in the Starliner capsule. The model is outfitted in the identical blue strain swimsuit that future Starliner passengers will put on and features a suite of sensors that may accumulate knowledge concerning the flight. That is really Rosie’s second flight, because the model additionally rode alongside for the unique OFT mission again in 2019.
“We’re additionally very, very jealous as a result of that is human spaceflight, and Rosie the model is the one which will get to take the journey as a substitute of us,” mentioned NASA astronaut Barry “Butch” Wilmore, one of many future flyers of Starliner, throughout a press convention.
Starliner takes off on high of an Atlas V rocket, manufactured and operated by the United Launch Alliance. After takeoff, the rocket will spend the subsequent quarter-hour propelling the capsule to area. Following that preliminary ascent, Starliner will separate from the rocket. However its job gained’t be performed but. At roughly 31 minutes following takeoff, Starliner will fireplace a sequence of 4 onboard thrusters to place itself into the appropriate orbit wanted for reaching the Worldwide House Station. It was this maneuver that went awry again in 2019, so all eyes will likely be watching throughout this course of.
As soon as Starliner achieves the deliberate orbit, the capsule will do a couple of demonstrations because it approaches the station on Friday, testing out sensors on the spacecraft and exhibiting the spacecraft can halt on command because it will get nearer to the ISS. However the largest demonstration of all will come when Starliner makes an attempt to dock with the Worldwide House Station. Like SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, Starliner is supplied with an automated docking system designed to autonomously maneuver the capsule onto an open docking port on the surface of the ISS.
The docking course of is important for Starliner’s mission, because it’s how future astronauts will really attain the area station. Boeing additionally wasn’t in a position to show docking in its 2019 launch, and each the corporate and NASA are very eager on seeing it occur this time.
“After all the entire mission is of curiosity to us, and we are going to be taught, however the areas that we’re most taking a look at as a result of we haven’t exercised them but are definitely the docking with the station,” Michelle Parker, Boeing vp and deputy normal supervisor of area and launch, mentioned throughout a press convention.
Docking is at present scheduled to happen on Friday, Might twentieth at 7:10PM ET, with NASA protection starting at 3PM ET. The crew already on board the ISS will monitor the capsule’s method. As soon as Starliner is hooked up, they’ll open the hatch to the car on Saturday, Might twenty first, which is scheduled for 11:45AM ET. The astronauts will retrieve some cargo packed inside Starliner and put further cargo again inside to be returned to Earth.
Starliner will camp out on the ISS for 4 to 5 days earlier than it undocks and begins its journey dwelling. Starliner will fly across the station whereas backing itself away from the ISS and place itself in a particular level above the Pacific Ocean. Then the craft will fireplace its thrusters once more, taking itself out of orbit and placing itself on target towards the floor. In contrast to SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, Starliner is designed to land on stable floor utilizing a mix of parachutes and airbags to cushion its landing. Boeing has 5 totally different areas within the US the place Starliner might probably contact down, together with White Sands Missile Vary in New Mexico and the Dugway Proving Floor in Utah.
Starliner’s future astronauts embody Wilmore, Mike Fincke, and Sunita Williams, all of whom will likely be watching the varied milestones of the missions from Boeing mission management and different areas right here on Earth. Relying on how this check flight goes, NASA might quickly finalize the crew for Starliner’s first crewed check flight, known as CFT.
However for now, the main target is on OFT-2. “We wouldn’t be right here proper now if we weren’t assured — assured — that this is able to be a profitable mission,” Wilmore mentioned.