Boeing's Starliner spacecraft has been mated to its rocket ride ahead of its July 30 launch.
The mission, called Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT-2), will be Boeing's second attempt at launching its new astronaut taxi to the International Space Station. The CST-100 Starliner spacecraft was stacked atop its United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket on July 17 at Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, marking a key milestone ahead of the mission's launch next week.
"Seeing the Starliner atop the Atlas V just days away from launch is symbolic of how proud our team feels about executing this mission," John Vollmer, vice president and program manager for Boeing's Commercial Crew Program, said in a statement from Boeing. "OFT-2 is a critical milestone on our path to crewed flights, and we're all ready to see our hard work come to life with a successful mission from beginning to end."
Boeing shared a video of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft being rolled out of the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida around 4:00 a.m. EDT (0800 GMT) on July 17. The spacecraft was driven 10 miles (16 kilometers) to United Launch Alliance's Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, where it was hoisted and mated to its Atlas V rocket. Now, teams will perform integrated testing to ensure the two spacecraft are communicating properly prior to launch.
The OFT-2 mission will be Boeing's second uncrewed test flight, designed to evaluate the capabilities of its Starliner spacecraft, including launch, docking, atmospheric re-entry and a desert landing in the western U.S. The mission is meant to demonstrate that Starliner is ready to transport NASA astronauts to and from the space station, according to the statement.
Boeing's first Starliner test flight launched in December 2019. However, the spacecraft did not reach the space station as planned due to a series of technical problems. Following a postflight review, the company completed dozens of NASA requirements before announcing it would repeat the orbital flight test.
"Boeing worked hand-in-hand with NASA to address lessons learned from Starliner's first flight, including re-verifying flight code, completing a comprehensive test of flight software, and performing an end-to-end mission rehearsal with final flight software, hardware and mission operators," officials said in the statement.
The OFT-2 mission was previously targeting launch in March 2021. However, Boeing experienced delays due to scheduling conflicts with other missions headed to the space station, as well as technical and weather issues.
If all goes according to plan, the Starliner spacecraft will launch on July 30 at 2:53 p.m. EDT (1853 GMT) from Space Launch Complex 41. The capsule, which will carry supplies and test equipment as well as a flight dummy dubbed Rosie the Rocketeer to simulate future crewed missions, should dock with the space station the next day.
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Samantha Mathewson joined Space.com as an intern in the summer of 2016. She received a B.A. in Journalism and Environmental Science at the University of New Haven, in Connecticut. Previously, her work has been published in Nature World News. When not writing or reading about science, Samantha enjoys traveling to new places and taking photos! You can follow her on Twitter @Sam_Ashley13.