Сборка капсулы для второго испытательного полёта. Источник изображения: NASA

The next test flight of the Boeing Starliner capsule is scheduled for late March. So far, no crew

A year ago, the first tests of the Boeing Starliner capsule for future delivery of astronaut crews to the ISS ended in failure. The commission found that the capsule could have been lost at least twice, and a total of 80 defects were found. The correction of the shortcomings was greatly delayed, and the new Starliner test flight had to be postponed until next year.

Assembling the capsule for the second test flight. Image source: NASA

Assembling the Boeing Starliner capsule for the second test flight. Image source: NASA

Late last night NASA announced that March 29 was selected as the new date for the uncrewed test flight of the Starliner. Earlier it was planned to make a second test flight (Orbital Flight Test-2, OFT-2) from October to December of this year. Probably, everything turned out to be not so easy to fix, although the pandemic factor also cannot be discounted.

The timing of the first test launch of Starliner with a crew remains unchanged for now. NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore, Mike Finke and Nicole Mann continue to train for the first crewed capsule flight (Crew Flight Test, CFT). Following the success of the OFT-2 unmanned mission, a crewed CFT flight is expected in the summer of 2021. Astronauts Sunita Williams, Josh Kassada, and Jeanette Epps are training for the first of six planned NASA and Boeing crew change missions to the ISS, Starliner-1. But the launch date for Starliner-1 is too early today.

The assembly of the Starliner capsule for the OFT-2 mission is nearing completion. The reusable crew module is powered up and the avionics, propulsion and propulsion system checks are almost complete. There are parachutes, landing airbags, a heat shield and a spacecraft shell. This will be followed by loading ballast into the capsule and dummy Rosie’s rocket launchers

In parallel with this work, Boeing specialists continue to repair the crew module used in the first test of the Starliner in flight OFT-1, and also create a completely new service module for the NASA Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT) program. There is no risk of sending people in a used capsule yet, although technologically it is designed for ten launches.

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