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Boeing's Starliner secures atop Atlas V rocket for second uncrewed launch

Boeing's Starliner spacecraft rolls from its processing facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday. It was towed to Complex 41 and lifted onto its Atlas V rocket as it is prepared for a July 30 launch. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI
Boeing's Starliner spacecraft rolls from its processing facility at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida on Saturday. It was towed to Complex 41 and lifted onto its Atlas V rocket as it is prepared for a July 30 launch. Photo by Joe Marino/UPI | License Photo

July 17 (UPI) -- Boeing's CST-100 Starliner spacecraft was secured atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket at Cape Canaveral Saturday in preparation for this month's second uncrewed flight test.

The Starliner capsule was towed from Boeing's Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at to ULA's Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station for hoisting atop the Atlas V, NASA said in a blog.

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The commercial spacecraft will launch its second orbital flight test without a crew on July 30. During the mission, it will autonomously dock with the International Space Station to deliver approximately 440 pounds of cargo and crew supplies for NASA.

It will be the last test flight before NASA and Boeing begin exploring opportunities for Starliner's first crewed mission, which is tentatively scheduled for sometime toward the end of this year.

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The Space Station serves as a microgravity research laboratory orbiting 250 miles above Earth.

The ULA tweeted a photo of the spacecraft being mounted stop the Atlas V rocket.

The upcoming flight test will demonstrate the end-to-end capabilities of the Starliner spacecraft and Atlas V rocket from launch to docking to a return to Earth in the desert of the Western United States, and provide valuable data toward certifying it for crewed flights, NASA said in statement.

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Pre-launch activities, launch and docking will air on the agency's website.

On its first unmanned flight test atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral in December 2019, the capsule hit a snag, failing to reach the ISS as planned. It burned fuel too quickly because of an error in the automated system that maintained mission timing, according to NASA. The trip to the ISS was aborted, and the spacecraft was able to land safely in a New Mexico desert.

"Today, a lot of things went right, and this is fact why we test," Jim Bridenstine, the NASA administrator at the time, told Space.com, regarding the first Orbital Flight Test. "If we would have had [a] crew in there, number one, they would have been safe."

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