The upper and lower domes of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner structural test article (STA) for the crew capsule were assembled in Florida, USA, on May 2, 2016. The Starliner is part of plans to launch NASA astronauts to the space station and return them to Earth.
On May 2, engineers and mechanics working in the same hangar where space shuttles were once maintained joined the upper and lower pressure domes for Boeing’s CST-100 STA. The test spacecraft’s two halves formed Boeing’s first example of the capsule.
Barry Decker, Boeing’s chief mechanic for the CST-100 Starliner, said in a video posted on line by Boeing, “There are 216 holes I have to line up, perfectly.”
After assembly, the STA will undergo testing at Boeing’s Huntington Beach, California, USA, facilities. Testing will ensure the capsules can endure spaceflight conditions, such as including engine firings, pressure and vibration of launching and re-entry. The first spacecraft will have an unmanned test flight sometime in December 2017.
Speaking at a Boeing’s Investor Conference May 11, 2016, a senior official said the company was targeting a first crewed launch in early 2018 – about three months later than originally planned. Boeing had been working toward a manned first test flight by the end of 2017. The size and mass of the CST-100 spacecraft and the acoustics of the Atlas V launch vehicle, as well as new docking software requirements from NASA, have added several months to the test program.
The reusable Starliner capsule will return to Earth with parachutes and the deployment of airbags to cushion a touchdown in the southwestern USA.
Click here for a video of the test article assembly.
May 13, 2016