Boeing's crew capsule bound for the International Space Station took its next big step on that journey today (Nov. 21) as it moved from the company's facility out to its Florida launch site.
The CST-100 Starliner capsule is due to make its first flight, an uncrewed test mission, on Dec. 17. The spacecraft will spend its final month on Earth at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. At that facility, owned by United Launch Alliance, the capsule will today be stacked on its Atlas V rocket built by ULA.
"Starliner is beautiful," NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, who will be flying on the first crewed Starliner mission, wrote on Twitter.
Rolling soon. Starliner is beautiful. pic.twitter.com/apYhtjCo00November 21, 2019
During that crewed test mission, which will be Starliner's next flight, Fincke will be joined by Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson and NASA colleague Nicole Mann. The trio was on-site for the rollout to commemorate the milestone in Starliner's journey.
The December test flight will be a critical trial for Starliner as it seeks NASA certification to fly astronauts to and from the space station. The uncrewed test flight will test each stage of a typical astronaut journey, including docking and undocking with the space station itself.
The uncrewed test flight is scheduled for just six weeks after Boeing's last key procedure, a pad abort test. That launch was designed to vet the spacecraft's ability to carry astronauts safely away from any anomalies with the rocket before blastoff.
Boeing's counterpart in NASA's commercial crew program, SpaceX, completed a similar uncrewed test flight of its own spacecraft, Crew Dragon, in March. Both companies are targeting crewed missions next year.
- Photo Tour: Inside Boeing's CST-100 Starliner Spaceship Hangar
- Boeing Unveils New Spacesuits for Starliner Astronaut Taxi (Photos)
- Photos: Meet the 'Boeing Blue' Spacesuit for Starliner Capsule
Get the Space.com Newsletter
Breaking space news, the latest updates on rocket launches, skywatching events and more!
Meghan is a senior writer at Space.com and has more than five years' experience as a science journalist based in New York City. She joined Space.com in July 2018, with previous writing published in outlets including Newsweek and Audubon. Meghan earned an MA in science journalism from New York University and a BA in classics from Georgetown University, and in her free time she enjoys reading and visiting museums. Follow her on Twitter at @meghanbartels.