The major challenge for NASA and Boeing is the weather, according to the company, which says a second test flight of its CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle has been planned for July 30. On July 27, the Starliner spacecraft and its Atlas 5 launch vehicle passed a launch readiness review for uncrewed Orbital Flight Test (OFT) 2 flights, which are scheduled to launch on July 30 at 2:53 p.m. Eastern from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station situated in Florida.
The weather is the biggest concern, with afternoon thunderstorms offering a 40% chance of favorable circumstances for the launch window. Will Ulrich, a launch weather officer with the Space Force’s 45th Weather Squadron, stated during a media briefing following the evaluation, “We’re a little bit grim going towards week’s end, but we have to be realistic.” “We can expect a pause in the expected thunderstorm and rain activity.”
If the launch on July 30 is canceled due to weather or other factors, the next two launch dates are August 3 and 4. This is due to orbital mechanics as well as the unavailability of a launch opportunity on July 31 due to a “classified operation” on the Eastern Range, as per Gary Wentz. He serves as the vice president in charge of the government and commercial operations at United Launch Alliance.
If the classified mission does not occur, he cautioned that the July 31 deployment date be revisited. “We’re still prepared in case that operation fails, and we might launch earlier, but until something changes, we’ll remain with Friday [July 30] as the launch date, with backup days on the 3rd and 4th.”
The briefing was used by NASA and Boeing to reiterate what they said at a news conference on July 22 regarding the Starliner spacecraft’s readiness to fly the OFT-2 flight, which comes nearly a year and a half after the first OFT mission was cut short owing to software and communications concerns. Boeing completed the deployment of 80 software and communications system ideas for the vehicle.
Implementing the recommendations, according to John Vollmer, program manager and vice president of Boeing’s commercial crew program, needed just a “very small set” of software changes, as well as changes to the spacecraft’s communications system. Other adjustments, he said, are just more programming to get the vehicle nearer to the crew-flying version. “We sought to make the Starliner as near to the crewed vehicle as we possibly could for this voyage, this mission,” he said. Apart from filling oxygen for the capsule’s life support system, “we likely could have deployed crew on this mission.”