It’s all systems go from NASA for uncrewed flight of Boeing’s Starliner to space station

Alan Boyle
Perched atop its Atlas 5 rocket, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner space taxi is being prepared for launch. (United Launch Alliance Photo)

After conducting a flight readiness review today, NASA gave its go-ahead for launching Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner space taxi on an uncrewed demonstration flight to the International Space Station on Dec. 20.

  • Starliner is due for liftoff atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket at 6:36 a.m. ET (3:36 a.m. PT) Dec. 20 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. The capsule will deliver cargo to the station, including “presents for the crew,” said John Mulholland, vice president and program manager for Boeing’s commercial crew program. If all goes according to plan, Starliner would be sent back to a touchdown in New Mexico’s White Sands Missile Range on Dec. 28.
  • There are still some open issues to be resolved over the next week, NASA’s Phil McAlister said. But if Boeing can’t make the Dec. 20 launch opportunity, there’ll be backup opportunities available all the way through Christmas.
  • Success with Boeing’s uncrewed demonstration flight, known as the Orbital Flight Test, would open the way for a crewed demonstration flight in early 2020. Boeing test pilot Chris Ferguson, who commanded NASA’s last space shuttle mission in 2011, would join NASA astronauts Nicole Mann and Mike Fincke on the crew. NASA’s other space taxi contractor, SpaceX, is also working toward the first crewed flight of its Dragon capsule in early 2020.

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