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.
A Boeing Starliner crew capsule fired off a stand early Monday at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico on a mile-high test flight to validate the spacecraft’s emergency escape thrusters. Only two of the ship’s three main parachutes deployed on descent, but Boeing officials do not expect any impacts on the planned launch of an unpiloted Starliner demonstration mission to the International Space Station in December.
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 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.