NASA has declared assembly complete on the core stage for the first Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket in New Orleans, signaling a long-awaited transition from manufacturing to testing as the core stage is set to move to the nearby Stennis Space Center in Mississippi for a hold-down firing next year of its four shuttle-era main engines.
Boeing’s first Starliner crew capsule to fly in space departed its factory Thursday at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida for a trip to a launch pad a few miles away, where teams raised the craft atop an Atlas 5 rocket for liftoff next month on an unpiloted test flight to the International Space Station.
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 is touting a lunar lander concept that the company claims could launch in one piece on an upgraded version of NASA’s Space Launch System heavy-lift rocket — which Boeing largely builds — and deliver astronauts to the moon’s surface in 2024 without going through NASA’s planned Gateway mini-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.