DEC. 6, 2019– As shown in a number of tweets earlier this morning, United Launch Alliance and Boeing Space have successfully conducted their Wet Dress Rehearsal for the Boeing CST-100 Starliner capsule. In a test similar to SpaceX’s static fires (however, with a lot less fire), the entire stack, capsule included, was fully fueled and taken through the terminal count and launch sequence all the way to right before RD-180 ignition, where the rehearsal count ended.
With the Wet Dress Rehearsal evidently being a success, ULA is now targeting December 20, 2019 for launch day. This is a day slip from the previous date of Dec. 19, and three days from the original Dec. 17 date. It’s clear that Boeing and ULA are doing everything they can to launch by the end of the year, with definitely a reasonable amount of pressure. Besides the so-called race between Boeing/ULA and SpaceX to get to the ISS first, Boeing is also under pressure to prove their parachute systems, after one parachute remarkably failed during the Pad Abort Test. Combined with their already tarnished reputation due to the 737 MAX debacle, Boeing has to do this right.
Boeing seems to be quite confident that they are up to the task with Starliner. The vehicle, also known as Commercial Space Transport (CST)-100, is Boeing’s bid for the Commercial Crew Program. Flying on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V N22 (N22 = No fairing, dual-engine upper stage, dual solid rocket booster), Starliner has a capacity for up to seven crew members, and can be reused up to ten times, thanks to it being the first US-built capsule to land on ground. The first crewed flight of Starliner, the CFT, is scheduled for the first half of 2020, carrying astronauts Michael Fincke, Chris Ferguson, and Nicole Mann.
Coverage of the Starliner program will continue here. We’ll be at the NASA Social, and reporting any new updates. This is OFT coverage, at T- 14 days. Go Atlas. Go Centaur. Go Starliner.