In statements issued on 17th February, NASA and Boeing said that the Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT) launch had been postponed. Earlier it was scheduled for 25th March, which has now been moved to no time before 2nd April. It is the second uncrewed test flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle. The delay has been announced for the replacement of damaged hardware during the spacecraft processing.
The spacecraft will launch in Cape Canaveral, Florida, on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5. Recently, Boeing replaced avionics units in the vehicle, which is when they declared the revised dates. NASA said the damage was caused by “a ground support equipment configuration issue during final checkouts” of the spacecraft.
The company is still working on addressing one key issue the first OFT mission faced in December 2019. The complete testing of the software on the spacecraft is under process as well. Almost a year ago, an independent review made a few recommendations with regards to the vehicle. NASA claims that 95% of the recommendations are complete, which primarily focused on the software.
One last-minute milestone before launch is the complete ‘end-to-end mission rehearsal.’ Before the OFT mission, the lack of full mission simulations was one reason for software issues. Another factor of delay is the terrible Houston weather leading to widespread power outages.
Boeing said in a statement, “Despite this, the team remains focused on the safety and quality of the spacecraft and a successful launch no earlier than 2nd April.” The team strives to disregard the record-breaking winter weather and stay on the planned schedule.