For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM
CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION, FL – In a major step towards launching NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) the components for the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket that will propel the Boeing Starliner commercial crew capsule to space were offloaded from the delivery ship R/S Rocketship Monday, June 21 after arrival at Port Canaveral and transported to the space operations launch facilities on Cape Canaveral, Florida.
The first and second stages as well as the launch vehicle adapter for the Atlas V rocket arrived at Port Canaveral aboard the ULA delivery ship R/S Rocketship over the weekend on Sunday, June 20 and were methodically rolled off one by one by technicians Monday morning, June 21 from the vessel docked at the Naval Ordinance Test Unit (NOTU)
“The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket destined to make history by launching Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft with three NASA astronauts to the International Space Station for the Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission has arrived at Cape Canaveral, Fla. aboard the R/S RocketShip,” ULA declared as reporters and photographers observed and spoke with two of the astronaut crew members.
The history making Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission abroad Starliner is scheduled for launch no earlier than later this year atop the Atlas V rocket designated tail number AV-085 – and will be the first Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft mission to fly a human crew to space for NASA’s Commercial Crew Program.
NASA Commercial Crew Starliner Astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Mike Fincke for the Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission were on hand to greet the booster and technicians and meet the media for a short Q & A session.
The length and timing of the CFT mission is still TBD by NASA.
“We don’t know when we will fly or for how long,” NASA Astronaut Butch Wilmore told Space UpClose during the Q & A.
“That is still to be determined.”
Both Wilmore and Fincke are spaceflight veterans and have previous flown aboard the space shuttle and spent long duration mission serving abroad the ISS.
The trio of ULA Atlas V components comprising the first stage and the Dual Engine Centaur upper stage and launch vehicle stage adapter were transported by the rocket-delivery vessel R/S Rocketship from ULA’s sprawling 1.6-million-square-foot manufacturing facility in Decatur, Ala. to Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Fla. RocketShip set sail on June 14 and arrived June 20.
All three pieces were unloaded Monday morning from R/S Rocketship and transported to ULA’s Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center (ASOC) on the Cape where they will now “undergo receiving checks …. and await the start of operations to prepare for flight,” ULA officials said.
The 312-foot-long ship is purpose-built to navigate both shallow waters of rivers and open ocean travel to reach ULA’s launch sites. It has been making the trek from Decatur to Cape Canaveral since 2001.
Enjoy our photos of the Atlas V rocket arrival event from the Space UpClose team of Ken Kremer and Jean Wright.
Wilmore will serve as Starliner commander joined by fellow NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann, the third CFT crew member on the test flight which will fully demonstrate the ability of the Atlas V and CST-100 system to safely carry astronauts to and from the ISS.
“The crewmates are working closely with Boeing to develop the new spacecraft systems, which will provide roundtrip crew transportation services to the space station,” said ULA.
But the NASA astronaut trio can’t launch on the CFT mission until the Boeing Starliner successfully completes the uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission- which is essentially a do over of the original botched uncrewed Orbital Flight Test which failed to reach the ISS after launching on the ill-fated mission in Dec. 2019.
The CFT mission has been much delayed by more than 1 year following the botched inaugural uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT) mission that launched in Dec. 2019 atop an Atlas V from Space Launch Complex-41 on CCSFS.
Starliner OFT failed to dock at the ISS after a thruster firing mishap minutes after liftoff on the ULA Atlas V – which performed flawlessly. Starliner suffered quite a few other technical failures – especially on the return to Earth where the separation from the service module almost ended in a catastrophic collision.
Boeing now plans to fly this second uncrewed Starliner mission called OFT-2 at their own expense of some $420 million on an Atlas V targeting liftoff July 30 to prove to NASA the vehicle is safe and reliable.
The CFT crew flight to the ISS would only follow a fully successful OFT-2 test flight.
Whenever it does fly CFT will be the third launch of Starliner, following the initial uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT)-1 in December 2019 and OFT-2 planned for July 30.
The rocket for OFT-2, tail number AV-082, was delivered from the factory to the Cape in 2019.
Here’s a video recap from ULA:
#ICYMI: The ULA #AtlasV rocket that will launch @BoeingSpace's CST-100 #Starliner with three @Commercial_Crew Astronauts to the @Space_Station for the #CFT mission arrived at Cape Canaveral, FL aboard #ULARocketShip. https://t.co/QdciD4bU1I pic.twitter.com/22Gs21bjAb
— ULA (@ulalaunch) June 22, 2021
With the Atlas V components for CFT now arrived at the Cape launch site at Space Launch Complex-41 attention focuses on the Boeing Starliner OFT-2 mission
NASA awarded a $4.2 Billion contract to Boeing in 2014 under the Commercial Crew Program (CCP) to develop and build the Starliner as an astronaut space taxi to the ISS and back – to end dependence on the Russian Soyuz capsule.
The Starliner crew vehicle for CFT is under construction at the C3PF processing facility at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida.
Likewise SpaceX was awarded a competing $2.6 Billion CCP contract to develop Crew Dragon.
In the meantime SpaceX has launched their version of the crew flight test on the successful Demo-2 Crew Dragon test flight on May 30, 2021 following by the Crew-1 and Crew-2 full duration six month crew missions to the ISS.
Watch Ken’s continuing reports about Starliner and Commercial Crew and Crew Dragon, Artemis and NASA missions, SLS, Orion, SpaceX, Starlink from onsite for live reporting of upcoming and recent SpaceX and ULA launches including Crew 1 & 2, Demo-2, ISS, X-37B, Solar Orbiter, Mars 2020 Perseverance and Curiosity rovers, NRO spysats and more national security missions and more at the Kennedy Space Center and Cape Canaveral Space Force Station.
Stay tuned here for Ken’s continuing Earth and Planetary science and human spaceflight news: www.kenkremer.com –www.spaceupclose.com – twitter @ken_kremer – email: ken at kenkremer.com
Dr. Kremer is a research scientist and journalist based in the KSC area, active in outreach and interviewed regularly on TV and radio about space topics.
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