Boeing’s Starliner is ready for a second attempt to reach the International Space Station, more than 18 months after its first attempt failed. Following a flight readiness review, NASA has decided to proceed with the craft’s upcoming uncrewed orbital flight test on July 30th.
Unless there is an unexpected delay, the capsule will launch from the Space Force’s Cape Canaveral Station aboard an Atlas V rocket at 2:53 p.m. ET. If NASA decides to postpone the flight, it will try again on August 3rd, at the earliest.
NASA intends to use the flight to conduct an end-to-end test of the Starliner’s capabilities. It wants to know if the capsule is capable of handling all aspects of a trip to the ISS, including launch, docking, and atmospheric re-entry.
“[Orbital Flight Test-2] will provide valuable data that will assist NASA in certifying Boeing’s crew transportation system to transport astronauts to and from the space station,” the agency stated.
If the flight is deemed successful, NASA will proceed with a crewed test of the Starliner. NASA’s commercial crew program manager, Steve Stich, stated that this could happen “as soon as later this year.”
Both Boeing and NASA have a lot riding on the success of Starliner. The aerospace company’s decision not to conduct an end-to-end test of the craft prior to its failed 2019 flight surprised the agency, raising concerns about the project.
Meanwhile, NASA is eager to have two capsules capable of transporting astronauts to the International Space Station. It is currently limited to SpaceX’s Crew Dragon. “Having two space transportation systems is critical for the commercial crew program,” Stich explained.