Boeing starts fueling Starliner for next flight

After numerous delays, NASA and Boeing have finally assured that the first crewed flight of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft will take place in May 2024. This is an important step towards the long-awaited Crew Flight Test (CFT). Therefore, Boeing is now actively preparing for the flight and has already started fueling the spacecraft. It will take about two weeks.

Engineers refuel the Boeing Starliner spacecraft. Photo: Boeing Space

The Starliner was recently transported to a special danger zone at Boeing’s C3PF near the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. The dangerous fueling operation is performed by a team of specially trained technicians, including engineers specializing in flammable liquids and electricity.

Boeing notes that after fueling, final work will be carried out on the deployment of the spacecraft from the factory to the United Launch Alliance Vertical Integration Center at the Cape Canaveral spaceport. The whole process includes removing the fuel access panels, installing protective covers on the outlet ports of the spacecraft nozzles, working with thermal protection, checking the final weight and center of gravity of the spacecraft, as well as loading it onto the launch vehicle.

Boeing Starliner spacecraft. Illustration:

The first flight of the Starliner in December 2019 failed to reach the ISS. Further investigation revealed many problems with the spacecraft and its systems. During the second test flight in 2022, it was possible to dock to the ISS, but it was necessary to eliminate even more identified shortcomings after the mission, because there were engine malfunctions. 

Now, it seems, Boeing has finally solved all the problems and is ready to put the crew in a capsule and send it to the orbital outpost, and then bring the astronauts back. NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suny Williams will make up the first crew on board the Starliner.

The successful manned Starliner test will allow NASA to have another type of spacecraft for access to low-Earth orbit, along with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, which carries astronauts to the ISS and back from 2020.

Earlier, we reported on how the “cursed” spacecraft stayed on Earth again.

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