Boeing’s first orbital test flight of its Starliner spacecraft ended in failure in 2019, so the aviation giant is keen to get it right second time around.
Following extensive work on the spacecraft to correct all of the flaws that ruined its first outing, Boeing and NASA are now targeting July 30 for the capsule’s next test flight.
The uncrewed mission will see Starliner blast off from Cape Canaveral in Florida before docking with the International Space Station (ISS). After a short stay it will then return to Earth and make a ground landing.
“Boeing and NASA are targeting 2:53 p.m. ET on Friday, July 30, for the launch of Starliner’s uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2, or OFT-2, mission to the ISS, pending range approval,” Boeing said in a release, adding that the updated launch target fits with both the ISS schedule and the availability of United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V rocket.
Should the second test flight go according to plan, the third orbital flight is likely to see Starliner transport three astronauts to and from the space station in a mission that could take place before the end of this year. Future flights could see the Starliner carry as many as seven astronauts at a time into orbit.
Boeing said that it recently completed end-to-end testing of Starliner’s flight software, an exercise that involved a simulated OFT-2 mission using operations teams and relevant hardware over a period of five days.
Following Starliner’s first launch in December 2019, the spacecraft failed to reach the targeted orbit, preventing it from completing its journey to the space station.
After a thorough investigation, various issues were discovered with the Starliner capsule, all of which had to be fixed ahead of a second test flight. That work is now complete.
NASA selected Boeing to be part of its Commercial Crew Program, a public-private partnership that pairs the agency’s space experience with private companies’ new technology with a view to ramping up space travel availability.
The Commercial Crew Program has already scored a major success after NASA and SpaceX succeeded in returning human spaceflight missions to U.S. territory after a decade-long hiatus.