United Launch Alliance’s next Atlas 5 launch will carry Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule into orbit July 30 on its second unpiloted test fight, officials confirmed Thursday. An Atlas 5 rocket for the U.S. military previously scheduled for June 23 has been postponed as engineers analyze unexpected vibrations of a new upper stage engine nozzle on a mission last month.
More than three-quarters of the launches from Florida’s Space Coast so far this year have deployed SpaceX’s Starlink internet satellites, but the focus will shift to other customers in June. Five rocket flights are scheduled to lift off from the spaceport next month for the U.S. Space Force, NASA, and commercial companies.
United Launch Alliance could load cryogenic methane and liquid oxygen propellants into a Vulcan rocket test article at Cape Canaveral for the first time in the coming weeks, timing key tests for the next-generation rocket in between flights of Atlas 5 rockets that will share the same launch complex for the next few years.
The U.S. Space Force has decided to delay the planned late February launch of two military satellites aboard a ULA Atlas 5 rocket to “evaluate readiness” of one of the payloads, giving officials a window to move forward the liftoff of an unpiloted test flight of Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule to no earlier than March 25.
Managers have pushed back the next flight of United Launch Alliance’s Delta 4-Heavy rocket from a launch pad in California until no sooner than early December, and the first launch of SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy for the U.S. Air Force has likely been delayed to some time early next year, officials said this week.
The head of the launch enterprise directorate at the U.S. Air Force’s Space and Missile Systems Center, Claire Leon, spoke with reporters March 15 about the military’s award of a GPS launch contract to SpaceX, and she discussed plans for more head-to-head launch contract competitions in the coming months.