NASA announced the extensive coverage of the Boeing Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission, which is the second uncrewed flight for the aerospace and jetliner company's Starliner spacecraft.
The space agency said in its website that it will provide coverage of the mission's prelaunch, launch and docking activities beginning 2:53pm EDT on July 30. OFT-2 is part of the US space agency's Commercial Crew Program.
According to the statement, Starliner will lift off on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from the Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. Starliner will reach its preliminary orbit approximately 30 minutes after launch. The spacecraft will then dock to the International Space Station at 3:06 pm EDT Saturday, July 31.
NASA Starliner Launch Mission Details; Spacecraft to Bring Cargo, Supplies
Starliner will bring over 400 pounds of NASA cargo and crew supplies to the ISS. It will then return to Earth carrying more than 550 pounds of cargo that includes reusable Nitrogen Oxygen Recharge System (NORS) tanks that provide breathable air for ISS crewmembers.
The mission will show how the Starliner spacecraft will present its capabilities from launch to docking at the space station, as well as landing back to Earth at a desert in the western US. OFT-2 is set to provide important data for NASA to certify Boeing's spacecraft for regular astronaut-maneuvered crew missions to and from the ISS.
Starliner teams at NASA's Kennedy Space Center had completed the fueling and service module last month, as they performed final spacecraft checks before Starliner is transported to Space Launch Complex-41 in Cape Canaveral and attached to the Atlas V rocket.
NASA-Boeing Orbital Test Flight-2 to Clear Path for Crewed Mission
NASA and Boeing had closed all the actions from an independent review last year to fix problems related to the failed first OFT of Starliner in December 2019. The review recommended a list of actions involving testing, software development, communications, and others to address the issues, Space News reported.
The OFT-1 mission was aborted when its ISS docking was canceled due to software problems. More software issues, which were found and corrected in flight, might have damaged the spacecraft when it broke off from its service module prior to its return to Earth.
NASA commercial crew program manager Steve Stich said the closure of the review that led to the July 30 launch is a "huge milestone for the Commercial Crew Program" that involved hardworking NASA and Boeing teams in determining solutions leading to the mission launch.
If the OFT-2 uncrewed mission is successful, NASA said it will be considering launching the first crewed Starliner flight--the Crew Flight Test--this year, the Washington Post said. This Starliner crewed mission will bring astronauts Butch Wilmore, Nicole Mann and Mike Fincke to the space station.
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