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Boeing Starliner test launch to space station targeted for December

Boeing's Starliner, that will fly Starliner's Crew Flight Test, at the acoustic testing at Boeing's spacecraft test facilities in El Segundo, California. (NASA and Boeing/WikiCommons)

NASA is getting closer to ending its reliance on its astronauts hitching rides to space from Russia as the Boeing Starliner has a new target date for its first uncrewed mission to the International Space Station.

Boeing CST-100 Starliner along with SpaceX Crew Dragon are the two vehicles NASA is working with to ferry astronauts to the ISS from the U.S. for the first time since the Space Shuttle Program ended in 2011. Since then, astronauts have had to fly aboard Soyuz capsules launching from Kazakhstan

While SpaceX already completed its uncrewed mission to the ISS this past March, post-flight issues including an explosion at Kennedy Space Center during testing have delayed the big step of taking actual astronauts on board to the space station.

Boeing has also faced delays, but now it has target dates the company has agreed to with NASA for both a pad abort test and the flight to the ISS.

First, the pad abort test will be held at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico will come by Nov. 4, according to a NASA press release.

Then comes the Orbital Flight Test launch targeted for Dec. 17 from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station on board an Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex 41.

“NASA and its commercial partners remain committed to flying astronauts as quickly as we can without compromising crew safety, and we always will give safety precedence over schedule,” reads the NASA press release.

SpaceX has as its next goal for Crew Dragon an in-flight abort test, which Elon Musk said would take place in either late November or early December as all of the pieces for that launch are already on site in Cape Canaveral for a launch from Kennedy Space Center.

Crew Dragon launches atop SpaceX Falcon 9 rockets.

After that test, SpaceX could target 2020 for its first crewed mission to the ISS.


© 2019 The Orlando Sentinel