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article imageNASA approves Dec. 20 Boeing CST-100 Starliner test flight

By Karen Graham     Dec 13, 2019 in Technology
After an intensive review Thursday, NASA gave its approval to proceed with the launch on December 20 of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner commercial crew spacecraft on an uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station (ISS).
“Hopefully, we should all be getting an early Christmas present this year,” said Phil McAlister, director of NASA’s commercial spaceflight development, according to the Seattle Times.
The announcement came after NASA and Boeing held a Flight Readiness Review (FRR), an in-depth assessment of the readiness of the mission to proceed. The Orbital Flight Test (OFT) mission was given the green light to proceed on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 at 6:36 a.m. Eastern Dec. 20.
The launch that day will result in the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft docking with the ISS the following day, where it will remain for about a week before returning to Earth and a parachute landing at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico in the predawn hours of Dec. 28, writes Space News.
"I thought it was a very good review. Our international partners were part of this review ... they're satisfied and ready to proceed," Kirk Shireman, the manager of NASA's International Space Station Program, said during a press teleconference following the FRR.
John Mulholland, vice president, and program manager of Boeing's Commercial Crew Program added that there was unanimous approval to proceed with the launch.
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NASA Commercial Crew
McAlister said there was some “standard open work” that needed to be completed before the launch as well as two open issues that needed to be resolved. “We could move off the 20th, but right now the 20th is looking good,” he said.
Mulholland explained that the two open issues include finalizing a review by the ISS program to confirm the Starliner flying on the mission matches the previously approved design, as well as final “data loads” for the spacecraft. He said they should be done before the Dec. 20 launch date.
While there will be no live astronauts on board the Starliner for its test launch to the ISS, there will be a "test dummy," called "Rosie the Rocketeer." Leanne Caret, president of Boeing's Defense, Space & Security division, named the mannequin after "Rosie the Riveter," the iconic role model for working women from WW II.
The launch of Starliner's OFT marks a major milestone in commercial spaceflight. "Starliner and crew dragon will signal the beginning of a robust age of space transportation," McAlister said, reports Space.com.
More about Boeing, CST100 starliner spacecraft, december 20, uncrewed test launch, Test flight
 
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