At Cape Canaveral on Saturday, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft was fastened atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket in preparation for this month’s second uncrewed flight test.
According to NASA’s blog, the Starliner capsule was towed from Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility to ULA’s Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station for hoisting onto the Atlas V.
On July 30, the commercial spaceship will conduct its second orbital flight test without a crew. During the mission, it will dock with the International Space Station autonomously to transfer about 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.
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.
Pre-launch activities, launch and docking will air on the agency’s website.
The capsule encountered a problem during its maiden unmanned flight test atop an Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral in December 2019, failing to reach the ISS as intended. According to NASA, it burnt fuel too rapidly due to a mistake in the automated system that maintained mission time. The mission to the International Space Station was cancelled, and the spacecraft landed safely in the New Mexico desert.
“Today, a lot of things went right, and this is fact why we test,” Jim Bridenstine, NASA administrator at the time, told Space.com after the maiden Orbital Flight Test. “If we would have had [a] crew in there, number one, they would have been safe.”