NASA and Boeing are targeting March 25 for Starliner's second unmanned orbital flight test

Image via NASA Blogs

Boeing and NASA have set March 25, 2021, as the date for Starliner's second unmanned flight test. Dubbed Orbital Flight Test- 2 (OFT-2), this will be the second major flight test for the spacecraft and a key developmental milestone for Boeing in its bid for the NASA Commercial Crew program. Previously, the two were targeting March 29, but the date was brought up due to multiple factors including the availability of the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket, an opening on the Eastern Range, steady progress on hardware and software, and a docking opportunity on the International Space Station.

This announcement comes after Boeing completed the formal requalification of the Starliner's flight software for the upcoming mission. This test included a full software review to verify that Starliner’s software meets design specifications. A complete, end-to-end simulation of the OFT-2 test flight using flight hardware and software will be conducted prior to the test day as well.

Recently, Boeing also mated the Starliner's reusable crew module on its new service module inside. Engineers are now working to complete outfitting of the vehicle’s interior before loading cargo and conducting final spacecraft checkouts. A series of parachute balloon drop tests were completed last year in December, as well, to gather supplemental performance data on the spacecraft’s parachutes and landing systems before a manned test is conducted sometime in the future.

Image via NASA Blogs

Starliner's last orbital flight test took place as far back as December 2019. But on that voyage, the spacecraft experienced a mission timing anomaly that caused it to burn too much fuel to reach the International Space Station (ISS). Consequently, it was put into a lower, stable orbit where the Starliner demonstrated effective key systems and capabilities before returning to Earth. When it touched down on December 22, it became the first American orbital space capsule to land on American soil rather than in an ocean.

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