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 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.
Boeing said Tuesday the first orbital test flight of its commercial crew capsule, named the Starliner, will be delayed until August “in order to avoid unnecessary schedule pressure” and give priority on the Atlas 5 rocket’s manifest to a U.S. Air Force communications satellite. NASA confirmed Wednesday that officials have approved an extension of the Starliner’s first crewed mission to last up to several months.
Boeing has reshuffled a sequence of test flights planned for the company’s CST-100 Starliner capsule after stuck valves inside a test version of the ship’s service module caused a fuel spill in June, delaying the commercial spacecraft’s first unpiloted orbital demo mission until late this year or early 2019, and moving back the first crew launch to mid-2019, a company official said Wednesday.