The US Space Force has decided to delay the planned late-February launch of two military satellites aboard an Ulla Atlas 5 rocket to “evaluate the readiness” of one of the payloads, allowing officials to take off without a Boeing flight A window was found to advance the lift of the test flight. No Starliner Crew capsules before 25 March.
The start of the Military Space Test Program-3, or STP-3, mission was first scheduled for 26 February on an Atlas 5 rocket from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. The STP-3 mission will deliver two military spacecraft in geosynchronous orbit at a distance of more than 20,000 miles at the equator.
A spokesman for the Space and Missile Systems Center said that STP-3 has been delayed to “evaluate readiness” named SPSPS 6, one of the military satellites, and “ensure mission success of the primary payload.”
STPSat 6 hosts several payloads and experiments, including the National Atomic Security Administration’s Space and Atmospheric Burst Reporting System-3 payload, designed to detect nuclear explosions from orbit. NASA’s Laser Communications Relay Demonstration Experiment and many more payloads are also flying on the STPST 6 spacecraft.
A small satellite called LPDE 1 will go into orbit with STPSAT 6. The LPDE 1 spacecraft is designed to accommodate experimental payloads and small satellites, which can be deployed from the parent satellite in orbit.
The STP-3 mission is also a milestone mission for ULA as it will be the first Atlas 5 launch with US-made paying fairing. The 5.4-meter-diameter (17.7-foot) shroud is similar to the payload fairing that flew on previous Atlas 5 flights, but they were built by RUAG Space in Switzerland.
But the new fairing has been built by RUAG technicians inside the UAA’s rocket factory in Decatur, Alabama using updated manufacturing techniques. The same fair design is intended to fly on Ula’s next generation Vulcan Centaur rocket.
The Space and Missile Systems Center of the Space Force said the new target launch date for the STP-3 mission is not.
With the STP-3 mission out of the way, the first launch of the Glee 2021 would take Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft into orbit on a test flight to the International Space Station.
In December 2019, Boeing’s OFT-1 test flight has a repeat demonstration mission named Orbital Flight Test-2. Software problems on the OFT-1 mission prevented the Starliner spacecraft from moving around with the space station, forcing a premature landing. Parachute at White Sands Space Harbor, New Mexico.
Boeing said earlier this month that engineers had completed the “essentialization” of the Starliner software code. A mock Starliner from launch through software docking and from landing to landing will undergo an end-to-end test next month to test its functionality throughout the flight.
The Starliner spacecraft is one of two new crew capsules designed to prepare astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule flew with astronauts for the first time last May, but Boeing’s software problems delayed the Starliner program by more than a year.
NASA contracted with Boeing and SpaceX to develop new crew capsules, ending US dependence on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft for astronaut transport services.
The OFT-2 mission was previously scheduled to take off on March 29, but NASA and Boeing officials did not launch the launch date before March 25, after delaying the STP-3 launch.
“The target launch date is enabled by the Eastern range, the availability of the United Launch Alliance Atlas 6 rocket, continued progress on hardware and software, and the opportunity for an International Space Station docking,” NASA said in a statement.
NASA said, “Boeing recently selected the spacecraft’s reusable crew module on its brand new service module inside the Starliner production factory at Kennedy Space Center in Florida.” “The teams are working to complete the interior of the vehicle before loading the cargo and examining the final spacecraft.”
Considering the week-long OFT-2 test flight well, Boeing expected to start Starliner’s first crew flight test as soon as mid-2021 with a three-man crew. The three astronauts will dock with the space station, where they are expected to spend one to two weeks before returning to Earth.
After the crew flight test, NASA will certify the Starliner to fly on an operational crew rotation mission at the space station. Those flights will carry four astronauts and will last for seven months.
Email the author
Follow Stephen Clarke on Twitter: @ Stephen Clarke 1.