The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket carrying Starliner brought to the pad at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station’s Space Launch Complex-41 early on December 18, riding a mobile launch platform 1,800ft (550 meters) from ULA’s Vertical Integration Facility.
Starliner stays on track to launch toward the International House Station (ISS) December 20 on its first test flight, an uncrewed mission named Orbital Flight Test (OFT).
Boeing has been creating Starliner under a multibillion-greenback NASA industrial crew deal. SpaceX received a similar contract for work on its Crew Dragon capsule. The space firm wants these two personal vehicles to fill the astronaut-ferrying sneakers of the house shuttle fleet, which retired in July 2011. Ever since then, Russian Soyuz spacecraft have been the one technique of crew transport to and from the ISS.
The eight-day OFT expedition is a vital step toward bringing Starliner entirely on-line, proving out the capsule’s capabilities during a trip to and from the ISS. If OFT is a success, a crewed demonstration program to the orbiting lab will follow, likely sometime in 2020.
SpaceX carried out its version of the OFT, an uncrewed ISS mission titled Demo-1 in March. The California-stationed firm is gearing up for an in-flight test of Crew Dragon’s emergency-escape system in January, which can clear the way for a crewed demonstration flight to the ISS for the SpaceX capsule.
Starliner and the Atlas V are slated to carry off Friday at 6:36 a.m. EST. There’s merely a 20% chance of a weather-related delay, Air Force delegates have said.