For SpaceUpClose.com & RocketSTEM
KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, FL – Weather is the key issue threatening the launch of Boeing’s Starliner CST-100 crew capsule astronaut ferry ship on its second unpiloted test flight on July 30 and also contributed to a delay in todays (July 28) rollout of the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V carrier rocket rollout to pad 41 on a mission that amounts to a ‘redo’ mission to prove the commercial system can safely carry NASA astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS).
Starliner failed to dock on the inaugural problem plagued orbital flight test (OFT) mission in Dec. 2019.
Managers from NASA, Boeing and ULA completed the critical launch readiness review (LRR) on Tuesday, July 27, and gave the GO ahead for liftoff Friday, July 30, of the uncrewed Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission from the Florida Space Coast – with potential poor weather from afternoon Florida thunderstorms and rain being the key concern.
✅ The launch readiness review is COMPLETE!
Teams are still “GO” for @NASA's @BoeingSpace Orbital Flight Test-2 launch – scheduled to lift off on Friday, July 30 at 2:53 p.m. ET. Meteorologists are predicting a 40% chance of favorable weather: https://t.co/NJ27dMoopc pic.twitter.com/9jypYcjDgm
— NASA Commercial Crew (@Commercial_Crew) July 27, 2021
The ULA Atlas V rocket was scheduled to rollout to pad 41 Wednesday morning, July 28, at 10 a.m.
But a series of problems first with the loss of internet connection and then the approach of dark storms clouds and thunder forced a postponement of rollout to the afternoon and then ultimately to Thursday at 8.m. EDT.
— ULA (@ulalaunch) July 28, 2021
Launch of the Boeing Starliner OFT-2 mission is slated for 2:53 p.m. EDT (1853 GMT) on Friday, July 30 on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, Florida during an instantaneous launch window.
— NASA Commercial Crew (@Commercial_Crew) July 28, 2021
Weather is only 40% GO for Friday’s launch based on expected and normal seabreeze pattern of afternoon thunderstorms and drenching rain storms during summertime in Central Florida and over Cape Canaveral – and as we have experienced almost daily this past week.
“It kind of feels like all eyes are on weather at this point,” said Will Ulrich, launch weather officer at the U.S. Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron, during the post LRR media briefing on Tuesday.
“Anytime me and my colleagues see a launch being put on the schedule or on the calendar during the summer months from Kennedy Space Center or Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, we always have to be prepared for a challenge. And this particular launch is no different, especially given the time of the instantaneous launch window just before 3 p.m.”
“We’re a little bit pessimistic going into week’s end, but we do have to be realistic with that,” Ulrich said Tuesday.
The Boeing Starliner is part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) to restore human spaceflight launch capabilities to the US and end total reliance on the Russian Soyuz crew capsule.
NASA’s other Commercial Crew Program (CCP) partner SpaceX has already successfully launched three crews of astronauts to the ISS since May 2020.
Here is a launch visibility map from ULA:
Wondering when and where you may see the #AtlasV #Starliner #OFT2 launch? The visibility map shows your best chances to see the rocket along the eastern seaboard of the U.S.! Launch is scheduled for Fri. at 2:53 p.m. EDT (1853 UTC) from Cape Canaveral. pic.twitter.com/mir5GXWFdB
— ULA (@ulalaunch) July 27, 2021
Boeing will fly this second uncrewed Starliner mission 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.
OFT-2 is the last flight before the Starliner system launches American astronauts on the Crew Flight Test to the microgravity laboratory – the first flight test with crew on board.
If all goes well with OFT-2 a trio of NASA astronauts will fly on the first crewed Starliner mission dubbed CFT (Crew Flight Test) perhaps as soon as years end.
My interviews about the Starliner rollout and the importance of the mission were featured on Fox 35 Orlando on July 26, WFTV ABC 9 News Orlando on July 22 & 23 and WESH 2 NBC News Orlando on July 18 & 19.
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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