ULA’s Decatur-made Atlas V rocket set to launch Boeing’s Huntsville-designed Starliner
This week saw the unification of two marvels of American space ingenuity, both made possible by Alabamians.
Boeing celebrated its last major milestone ahead of next month’s unmanned Orbital Flight Test, which is currently targeted for December 17.
Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is the only American-built capsule certified to land on land through a unique system of airbags and parachutes – allowing the capsule to be reusable up to 10 times.
The spacecraft on Thursday was rolled out of the factory floor at Florida’s Kennedy Space Center and was then transported to a facility at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, where it was placed atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket that has been awaiting its arrival for the last couple of weeks.
While the Atlas V was built at ULA’s Decatur, Alabama, facility, the Starliner also has some serious Yellowhammer State roots.
According to the company, Boeing’s design center in Huntsville provided all of the structural design for the Starliner capsule. Additionally, Boeing’s Phantom Works division, which has an operation in Huntsville, provided the power systems for the capsule.
The Atlas V rocket involved is comprised of a booster stage and dual-engine Centaur upper stage, as well as a pair of solid rocket boosters.
The upcoming Orbital Flight Test will see the uncrewed capsule launch to the International Space Station.
Upon a successful flight test, ULA’s Alabama-made rocket and Boeing’s Huntsville designed Starliner will be set for a historic mission: taking American astronauts back to space for the first time since 2011.
“This is critical to our future as a nation,” said Kennedy Space Center director Bob Cabana, per NASA. “We’ve got to get astronauts flying on U.S rockets from U.S. soil, and this is just a huge step forward.”
You can follow along with the Starliner’s upcoming flight test, including a running countdown clock, here.
Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn