Boeing officials said Wednesday that the company is targeting Dec. 17 for the launch of the first unpiloted orbital test flight of the new Starliner crew capsule from Cape Canaveral on a week-long demonstration mission to the International Space Station, a precursor to a mission with astronauts next year.
Meanwhile, engineers in the New Mexico desert are readying a Starliner test vehicle for a pad abort test scheduled for the morning of Nov. 4, local time, during which the crew capsule will demonstrate its ability to escape an emergency on the launch pad, according to industry sources.
But officials did not say when the Starliner could be ready to launch with astronauts.
NASA is counting on its commercial crew contractors — Boeing and SpaceX — to begin ferrying crews to and from the space station. The space agency’s final contracted seat to fly a U.S. astronaut to the station on a Russian Soyuz spacecraft launches in March 2020, and returns to Earth next October.
NASA has stretched the duration of astronaut stays on the space station this year to buy time for Boeing and SpaceX to finish building and testing their spacecraft. Space agency officials have also approved plans for ...