Second Uncrewed Boeing Starliner Demo on Track for December Launch

Boeing and NASA continue to prepare for the launch of the uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 mission.
The crew module of Boeing’s Orbital Flight Test Starliner spacecraft is lifted into place atop its service mobile on October 16, 2019 | Image credit: Boeing

Boeing and NASA are continuing to prepare for the launch of the second uncrewed Starliner demonstration mission.

In an August 28 press release, NASA outlined Boeing’s progress in its preparation for the uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission. The agency hopes to launch the mission no earlier than December 2020 aboard a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket.

The bulk of assembly for the OFT-2 capsule and service module has been completed. Boeing teams at the Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center have completed the installation of the spacecraft’s propellant heater, thermal protection system tiles, and the airbags that will ensure a soft touchdown.

Work is now focused on the “NASA docking system reentry cover” and acceptance testing, a milestone that will ensure all of the spacecraft’s systems are operational before it’s mated with its service module.

While the assembly of the capsule and service module progresses, the Boeing software team in Houston is in the final stages of modifying and re-verifying the flight code that will be flown aboard OFT-2. This is a major step as the flight code and the systems put in place to ensure its quality were identified as primary contributors to the failure of the first uncrewed demo mission.

The Orbital Flight Test mission was launched on December 20, 2019 and was expected to rendezvous and dock with the International Space Station. However, due to a chain of anomalies, the spacecraft was unable to rendezvous with the orbiting laboratory and was by all estimates fortunate to return to Earth without being destroyed.

Following the calamitous maiden flight, NASA and Boeing launched an exhaustive investigation. The NASA-Boeing Independent Review Team identified 80 points of concern that would need to be addressed by Boeing before moving forward with a second test mission. According to NASA, Boeing has currently implemented “almost 75%” of the proposed actions.

Andrew Parsonson is a space enthusiast and the founder of Rocket Rundown. He has worked as a journalist and blogger for various industries for over 5 years and has a passion for both fictional and real-life space travel. Currently, Andrew is the primary writer for Rocket Rundown as we look to expand our reach and credibility.