United Launch Alliance teams at Cape Canaveral hoisted a Centaur upper stage on top of an Atlas 5 rocket Friday at launch pad 41, completing the initial build-up of the launch vehicle slated to carry Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule into space in December on an unpiloted test flight to the International Space Station.
Boeing specialists working inside a former space shuttle hangar in Florida started fueling the company’s first spaceflight-ready Starliner capsule this week ahead of the ship’s rollout to its launch pad later this month. The fueling milestone is a major step in the Starliner launch campaign, and comes after engineers concluded that human error led to a parachute deployment malfunction during a crew capsule abort test Monday.
The European Space Agency’s Solar Orbiter spacecraft — assembled in Britain and set for liftoff in February — has completed environmental testing in Germany and is scheduled to ride a cargo plane to NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida to begin launch preparations Oct. 31, several weeks earlier than planned to avoid complications stemming from Brexit.
Boeing officials said Wednesday that the company is targeting Dec. 17 for the launch of the first unpiloted orbital test flight of the new Starliner crew capsule from Cape Canaveral on a week-long demonstration mission to the International Space Station, a precursor to a mission with astronauts next year.
NASA civil servants and the agency’s contractor work force are bracing for high winds and rain from Hurricane Dorian, securing rocket stages, spacecraft assembly areas and even hauling a 6.7-million-pound mobile launch tower, designed for the huge rocket being built for the Artemis moon program, back to the cavernous Vehicle Assembly Building for safekeeping.