NASA Commercial Crew Programme: Boeing’s Starliner Orbital Flight Test-2 or the OFT-2 has once again been postponed from when the uncrewed test mission was earlier scheduled to take off from Florida-based Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Space Launch Complex-41 on Tuesday. According to a report in IE, the Crew Space Transportation-100 or CST-100 spacecraft is a mission under an uncrewed test flight to the ISS or International Space Station as part of NASA’s Commercial Crew programme. The postponement of the launch was announced by Boeing Space on Twitter, saying that further details would be shared later.
The CST-100 Starliner is supposed to carry over 400 pounds of crew supplies and cargo for NASA to the ISS in a journey that would take about 24 hours and would culminate with the spacecraft docking at the ISS. Boeing has designed the spacecraft to carry seven astronauts or a mix of crew and cargo to low-Earth orbit as part of the missions, and the company said that for NASA, it would carry up to four astronauts sponsored by the US space agency and time-critical scientific research to the ISS.
The report added that the spacecraft can be reused up to 10 times, and it has a turnaround time of six months. Apart from this, it also has wireless internet as well as tablet technology for crew interfaces.
The test flight that has been postponed is meant to check all the capabilities of the spacecraft, right from launching to docking and to atmospheric re-entry and landing. Apart from that, the flight would also allow the US space agency to ensure and certify the transportation system that would carry astronauts at a later stage back and forth between the Earth and the ISS.
NASA’s Commercial Crew programme is meant to make access to space less costly for easy transportation of cargo and crew to and from the space station. The objective would be achieved by sharing these costs with commercial partners, like Boeing and Elon Musk’s SpaceX, while giving the private players an incentive to develop Commercial Orbital Transportation Services or COTS. Not only that, but by outsourcing the crew transportation services to and from the low-Earth orbit to private companies, NASA would be able to free up resources to focus on building rockets and spacecraft for missions meant to explore deep space.
In order to transport NASA astronauts and cargo to the space station, the US space agency pays these private companies, much like for air travel, a passenger pays the airline for travelling from point A to B.