Starliner, Boeing's new astronaut taxi to the International Space Station, will be ready for its very first flight in March.
NASA had entered into a formal agreement with SpaceX and Boeing to transport U.S. astronauts to ISS from the American soil. The U.S. Space Agency marks its first to launch a crew to space once again since the time it halted the space shuttle program.
Starliner First Test Flight
The private spaceflight company will not assign a crew of astronauts onboard CST-100 Starliner when the spacecraft makes its first test flight to the ISS next month. Once it docks at the ISS, the Starliner will make a parachute landing in Texas when it returns to Earth.
Boeing spokesperson Maribeth Davis revealed to Space during the company's future vision for space travel that if the test flight goes as planned, then Starliner is all set to launch the first batch of astronauts to the space station in August.
Named Orbital Flight Test, this space mission will launch on United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida. Boeing initially scheduled the launch on Aug. 27 last year but it pushed back the test flight due to an anomaly that took place during a test of the launch abort engines.
While it is Starliner's first test flight to space, it already successfully completed the parachute drop tests within the outer limits of Earth's atmosphere.
New Astronaut Taxis
Meanwhile, SpaceX Crew Dragon is one of the two new astronaut taxis contracted by NASA to launch astronauts in nearly eight years. The Starliner is scheduled for its maiden voyage in March, shortly after the Crew Dragon's first unmanned test flight on Feb. 28. The SpaceX spacecraft will then again launch a test flight, with a crew this time, in June.
Boeing and SpaceX serve as the first two private spaceflight companies that will begin launching astronauts to the space station. The contract between the United States and Russia to ferry U.S. astronauts to the ISS using the Soyuz rocket capsule concludes in April.
Last month, NASA also announced a change in the crew for Boeing Starliner's first manned test flight, which is bound to launch in the second half of the year. Long-time astronaut Mike Fincke takes the place of Eric Boe who won't be able to fly due to medical reasons. Fincke will now join NASA astronaut Nicole Aunapu Mann and Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson.