Starliner schedule shapes up

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The competition heats up: The schedule and launch plans for Boeing’s manned Starliner spacecraft are now becoming solidified.

For Boeing, Starliner will first launch on an uncrewed test flight to the Station via the “Boe-OFT” mission in April or May, 2017 – on a 30 day mission, ending with a parachute-assisted return. Should all go to plan, the second mission will involve a crew on a mission designated “Boe-CFT”, launching sometime between July and September, 2017, on a 14-day mission to the ISS.

The article also outlines the launch procedures Boeing intends to follow, some determined by the company and some by NASA’s complex safety rules. One interesting tidbit about Starliner revealed here that I was unaware of previously is that the capsule is made of separate top and bottom units that are only fitted together late in the launch process, allowing for easier access.


  • wodun

    Would this make reusing the capsule easier? Just pop off the bottom part and hook up a new one. Any damage to the heat shield wouldn’t ruin the whole capsule or require waiting for the heatshield to be refurbished.

  • Edward

    If I read it right, they are able to access the various components in the bottom section (thrusters, electronics, batteries, tanks, etc.) for easy refurbishment or replacement. Many of these are located outside the pressurized section, so removing the conical hull would allow easy access to these

    My guess is that the heat shield is bolted through the inside of the bottom section, and removing the conical hull almost certainly helps access these bolts.

    While working on the bottom section, the upper section can be refurbished (equipment/supply lockers, control panels, parachutes, etc.). Turnaround time can be reduced through ease of access and by working on both sections simultaneously.

    The cost to this process seems to be minor, as it is probably mostly the time spent disassembling and reassembling the two sections and the time spent verifying that they are properly airtight and properly interacting after reassembly. I would guess that this takes little more than four shifts, but the additional access probably saves dozens of shifts worth of time spent crawling all over each other.

    Wodun probably has the right idea. If one section takes longer to refurbish, then it can be replaced by another section that has already been finished. That way you may only need, for instance, two tops and three or five bottoms.

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