Officials confirmed Tuesday that Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft is finally ready to retry a critical test launch to the International Space Station on May 19.
The uncrewed trip, dubbed OFT-2, is an important step toward certifying the spaceship for carrying passengers in the future, providing NASA a second taxi operator to complement SpaceX.
Boeing, which was given a $4.2 billion contract for the project in 2014, attempted the test in 2019, but was unable to rendezvous with the ISS due to software issues that resulted in flight anomalies.
Since then, there have been additional delays in the programme. It was last scheduled to fly in August 2021, but the mission was cancelled just hours before launch due to rust in Starliner’s valves caused by extreme humidity.
On a conference call with reporters, Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, stated, “It’s been a hard eight months I would say, but very fulfilling that we’ve resolved the problem.”
Lift-off from the Kennedy Space Center in Florida is scheduled for 6:54 p.m. (2254 GMT).
If OFT-2 is successful, Boeing will have to execute another crewed test before it is formally certified, with the corporation aiming for the mission’s completion by the end of 2022, according to Boeing’s Mark Nappi.
Meanwhile, since its first crewed voyage in 2020, Elon Musk’s SpaceX has carried more than 20 passengers to the ISS in its Crew Dragon capsule.
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