Boeing Starliner

  (Redirected from CST-100 Starliner)

Boeing Starliner[5] (officially CST-100 Starliner[a]) is a class of reusable crew capsules expected to transport crew to the International Space Station (ISS) [6] and to private space stations such as the proposed Bigelow Aerospace Commercial Space Station.[7] It is manufactured by Boeing for its participation in NASA's Commercial Crew Program.

Boeing Starliner
CST-100 Starliner integration with Atlas V for Orbital Flight Test (KSC-20191121-PH-CSH02 0080) (cropped).jpg
Boeing Starliner Spacecraft 3 Calypso being placed atop an Atlas V
Country of originUnited States
ApplicationsISS crew and cargo transport
Spacecraft typeCrewed capsule
Design life
  • 60 hours (free flight) [1]
  • 210 days (docked) [1][2]
Launch mass13000 kg
Crew capacityUp to 7
  • Diameter (CM): 4.56 m [3]
  • Length (CM+SM): 5.03 m [3]
Volume11 m3 (390 cu ft)[4]
RegimeLow Earth orbit
StatusIn development and testing
Maiden launch20 December 2019, 11:36:43 UTC (uncrewed)

The capsule has a diameter of 4.56 m (15.0 ft),[3] which is slightly larger than the Apollo command module and smaller than the Orion capsule.[8] The Boeing Starliner holds a crew of up to seven people and is being designed to be able to remain in-orbit for up to seven months with reusability of up to ten missions.[9] It is designed to be compatible with four launch vehicles: Atlas V, Delta IV, Falcon 9, and Vulcan Centaur.[10]

In the first phase of its CCP, NASA awarded Boeing US$18 million in 2010 for preliminary development of the spacecraft.[11] In the second phase Boeing was awarded a US$93 million contract in 2011 for further spacecraft development.[12] On 3 August 2012, NASA announced the award of US$460 million to Boeing to continue work on the Starliner under the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) program.[13] On 16 September 2014, NASA selected the Boeing Starliner, along with SpaceX Crew Dragon, for the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) program, with an award of US$4.2 billion.[14]

The Boeing Starliner Orbital Flight Test (uncrewed test flight) launched with the Atlas V N22,[15] on 20 December 2019 from SLC-41 at Cape Canaveral, Florida. During the test, the Starliner experienced a timing anomaly that precluded a docking with the International Space Station.[16][17] Two days after launch, on 22 December 2019 at 12:58 UTC, with the successful landing at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, the Boeing Starliner Calypso became the first-ever crew-capable space capsule to make a land-based touchdown in the United States.[18]


Starliner mockup

The design draws upon Boeing's experience with NASA's Apollo, Space Shuttle and ISS programs as well as the Orbital Express project sponsored by the Department of Defense.[8] Starliner has no Orion heritage, but it is sometimes confused with the earlier and similar Orion-derived Orion Lite proposal that Bigelow Aerospace was reportedly working on with technical assistance from Lockheed Martin.[19] It will use the NASA Docking System for docking[20][21][22][dubious ] and use the Boeing Lightweight Ablator for its heat shield.[23] The Starliner's solar cells will provide more than 2.9 kW of electricity, and will be placed on top of the micro-meteoroid debris shield located at the bottom of the spacecraft's service module.[24]

It is designed to be compatible with multiple launch vehicles, including the Atlas V, Delta IV, and Falcon 9, as well as the planned Vulcan Centaur.[10][25]

Unlike earlier United States space capsules, Starliner will make airbag-cushioned landings on the ground rather than into water. Five landing areas are planned in the Western United States, which will give the Starliner about 450 landing opportunities every year.[26]

Starliner includes one space tourist seat, and the Boeing contract with NASA allows Boeing to price and sell passage to low Earth orbit on that seat.[27]


Starliner pressure vessel at the former Orbiter Processing Facility in October 2011 showing its isogrid construction.
The wind tunnel testing of CST-100's outer mold line in December 2011.

The CST-100 name was first used when the capsule was revealed to the public by Bigelow Aerospace CEO Robert Bigelow in June 2010.[28] The letters CST stand for Crew Space Transportation.[29] It was often reported that the number 100 in the name stands for 100 km (62 mi), the height of the Kármán line which is one of several definitions of the boundary of space,[30][31] The Rocketdyne RS-88 engine will be used for its launch escape system.[32]

Receiving the full fixed-price payments for the CCP Phase 1 Space Act Agreement required a set of specific milestones to be met during 2010:[33]

  • Trade study and down-select between pusher-type and tractor-style launch escape system
  • System definition review
  • Abort System Hardware Demonstration Test
  • Base Heat Shield Fabrication Demonstration
  • Avionics Systems Integration Facility demonstration
  • CM Pressure Shell Fabrication Demonstration
  • Landing System Demonstration (drop test and water uprighting test)
  • Life Support Air Revitalization demonstration
  • Autonomous Rendezvous and Docking (AR&D) hardware/software demonstration
  • Crew Module Mockup demonstration.

In July 2010, Boeing stated that the capsule could be operational in 2015 with sufficient near-term approvals and funding, but also indicated they would proceed with the development of the Starliner only if NASA implemented the commercial crew transport initiative that was announced by the Obama administration in its FY2011 budget request. Boeing executive Roger Krone stated that NASA investment would allow Boeing to close the business case, while this would be very difficult without NASA. In addition, a second destination besides the ISS would be needed to close the business case and Krone said that cooperation with Bigelow was crucial for this.[8]

Boeing was awarded a US$92.3 million contract by NASA in April 2011 to continue to develop the CST-100 under CCDev phase 2.[34] On 3 August 2012, NASA announced the award of US$460 million to Boeing to continue work on the CST-100 under the Commercial Crew Integrated Capability (CCiCap) program.[13]

On 31 October 2011, NASA announced that through a partnership with Space Florida, the Orbiter Processing Facility-3 at Kennedy Space Center would be leased to Boeing for manufacture and test of Starliner.[35]

On 16 September 2014, NASA chose Boeing (Starliner) and SpaceX (Crew Dragon) as the two companies that will be funded to develop systems to transport U.S. government crews to and from the International Space Station. Boeing won a US$4.2 billion contract to complete and certify the Starliner by 2017, while SpaceX won a US$2.6 billion contract to complete and certify their crewed Dragon spacecraft. The contracts include at least one crewed flight test with at least one NASA astronaut aboard. Once the Starliner achieves NASA certification, the contract requires Boeing to conduct at least two, and as many as six, crewed missions to the space station.[36] NASA's William H. Gerstenmaier considers the Starliner proposal as stronger than the two others.[37]

Part of the agreement with NASA allows Boeing to sell seats for space tourists. Boeing proposed including one seat per flight for a space flight participant at a price that would be competitive with what Roscosmos charges tourists.[38]

On 4 September 2015, Boeing announced that the spacecraft would officially be called the CST-100 Starliner, a name that follows the conventions of the 787 Dreamliner produced by Boeing Commercial Airplanes.[39] In November 2015, NASA announced it had dropped Boeing from consideration in the multibillion-dollar Commercial Resupply Services second-phase competition to fly cargo to the International Space Station.[40]

In May 2016, Boeing delayed its first scheduled Starliner launch from 2017 to early 2018.[41][42] Then in October 2016, Boeing delayed its program by six months, from early 2018 to late 2018, following supplier holdups and a production problem on the Spacecraft 2. By 2016, they were hoping to fly NASA astronauts to the ISS by December 2018.[41][43]

In April 2018, NASA suggested the first planned two-person flight of the Starliner, slated for November 2018, was now likely to occur in 2019 or 2020. If the delays are maintained it would be expected to carry one additional crew member and extra supplies. Instead of staying for two weeks as originally planned, NASA said the expanded crew could stay at the station for as long as six months as a normal rotational flight.[44]


Test of Starliner's airbags in April 2012.
Starliner pad abort test in November 2019.

A variety of validation tests have been underway on test articles since 2011.

In September 2011, Boeing announced the completion of a set of ground drop tests to validate the design of the airbag cushioning system. The airbags are located underneath the heat shield of the Starliner, which is designed to be separated from the capsule while under parachute descent at about 1,500 metres (5,000 ft) altitude. The airbags are deployed by filling with a mixture of compressed nitrogen and oxygen gas, not with the pyro-explosive mixture sometimes used in automotive airbags. The tests were carried out in the Mojave Desert of southeast California, at ground speeds between 16 and 48 kilometres per hour (10 and 30 mph) in order to simulate crosswind conditions at the time of landing. Bigelow Aerospace built the mobile test rig and conducted the tests.[29]

In April 2012, Boeing dropped a mock-up of its Starliner over the Nevada desert at the Delamar Dry Lake, Nevada, successfully testing the craft's three main landing parachutes from 3,400 metres (11,000 ft).[45]

In August 2013, Boeing announced that two NASA astronauts evaluated communications, ergonomics, and crew-interface aspects of the Starliner, showing how future astronauts will operate in the spacecraft as it transports them to the International Space Station and other low Earth orbit destinations.[46]

Boeing reported in May 2016 that its test schedule would slip by eight months in order to reduce the mass of the spacecraft and aerodynamics issues anticipated during launch and ascent on the Atlas V rocket.[47] The Orbital Flight Test is scheduled for spring 2019. The booster for this Orbital Flight Test, an Atlas V N22 rocket, is being assembled at ULA's facility at Decatur, Alabama.[48] The first crewed flight (Boe-CFT) is scheduled for summer 2019, depending on test results from Boe-OFT. It is planned to last 14 days and carry one NASA astronaut and one Boeing test pilot to the ISS.[49] On 5 April 2018, NASA announced that the first planned two-person flight, originally slated for November 2018, is likely to occur in 2019 or 2020. If this delay occurs the mission could be expected to carry one additional crew member and supplies. NASA said the expanded crew could stay at the station for as long as six months as a normal rotational flight. This is due to the ending of the agreement for Russia to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station in late 2019.[50] In July 2018, Boeing announced the assignment of former NASA astronaut Christopher Ferguson to the Boe-CFT mission. On 3 August 2018, NASA has named its first Commercial Crew astronaut cadre of four veteran astronauts to work with SpaceX and Boeing: Robert Behnken, Eric Boe, Sunita Williams, and Douglas Hurley.[51]

In July 2018, a test anomaly was reported in which there was a hypergolic propellant leak due to several faulty abort system valves. Consequentially, the first unpiloted orbital mission was delayed to April 2019, and the first crew launch rescheduled to August 2019.[52][53] In March 2019, Reuters reported these test flights had been delayed by at least three months,[54] and in April 2019 Boeing announced that the unpiloted orbital mission was scheduled for August 2019.[55]

In May 2019, all major hot-fire, including simulations of low-altitude abort thruster testing, was completed using a full up to service module test article that was "flight-like", meaning that the service module test rig used in the recent hot-fire testing included fuel and helium tanks, reaction control system, orbital maneuvering, and attitude control thrusters, launch abort engines and all necessary fuel lines and avionics that the ones that will be used for crewed missions will have. This clears the way for the pad abort test and the subsequent uncrewed and crewed flights later.[56] A pad abort test took place on 4 November 2019.[57] The capsule accelerated away from its pad, but then one of the three parachutes failed to deploy and the capsule landed with only two parachutes.[58][59] Landing was however deemed safe, and the test a success. Boeing did not expect the malfunction of one parachute to affect the Starliner development schedule.[60]

First orbital flight testEdit

Starliner landed at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico following OFT in December 2019.

The orbital flight test launched on 20 December 2019, but after deployment, an 11-hour offset in the mission clock of Starliner caused the spacecraft to compute that "it was in an orbital insertion burn", when it was not. This caused the attitude control thrusters to consume more fuel than planned, precluding a docking with the International Space Station.[16][17] The spacecraft landed at White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico, two days after launch.[61] After the successful landing, the spacecraft was named Calypso (after the research vessel RV Calypso for the oceanographic researcher Jacques-Yves Cousteau) by the commander of the Boeing Starliner-1 mission, NASA astronaut Sunita Williams.[62]

Two software errors detected during the test, one of which prevented a planned docking with the International Space Station, could each have led to the destruction of the spacecraft had they not been caught and corrected in time, NASA said on 7 February 2020. A joint NASA-Boeing investigation team "found the two critical software defects were not detected ahead of flight despite multiple safeguards", according to an agency statement. "Ground intervention prevented the loss of the vehicle in both cases". Before re-entry, engineers discovered the second critical software error that affected the thruster firings needed to safely jettison the Starliner's service module. The service module software error "incorrectly translated" the jettison thruster firing sequence.[63]

Second orbital flight testEdit

Boeing officials said on 6 April 2020, that the Starliner crew capsule will fly a second time without astronauts after software problems and other issues plagued a first test flight on 20 December 2019, preventing the ship from reaching the International Space Station. Boeing confirmed that it will fly a second uncrewed demonstration mission — an Orbital Flight Test — before astronauts ride a Starliner into orbit in 2021. NASA said it accepted a recommendation from Boeing to fly a second unpiloted mission. The Washington Post reported the second Orbital Flight Test, with much the same objectives as the first, is expected to launch from Cape Canaveral "sometime in October or November 2020". Boeing said it would fund the unplanned crew capsule test flight "at no cost to the taxpayer". Boeing told investors earlier this year it was taking a US$410 million charge against its earnings to cover the expected costs of a second unpiloted test flight.[64] Boeing officials said on 25 August 2020, that set the stage for the first Starliner demonstration mission with astronauts in mid-2021.[65]


With the completion of the NASA/Boeing investigation into the Starliner OFT-1 flight of December 2019, the review team identified 80 recommendations that Boeing, in collaboration with NASA, is addressing, with action plans for each already well under way. Since the full list of these recommendations are company sensitive and proprietary, only those changes publicly disclosed are known.[66]

Boeing's Starliner spacecraft was designed to accommodate seven passengers, or a mix of crew and cargo, for missions to low-Earth orbit. For the NASA service missions to the International Space Station, it will carry four passengers and small cargo. Starliner uses an innovative, weldless structure and is reusable up to 10 times with a six-month turnaround time. Boeing plans to rotate between two reusable crew modules for all planned Starliner missions. Each flight will use a new service module, which provides propulsion and power generation capacity for the spacecraft. It features wireless Internet and tablet technology for crew interfaces.[67]

Change of Starliner Docking SystemEdit

Boeing has modified the design of the Starliner docking system to add a re-entry cover for additional protection during the capsule's fiery descent through the atmosphere. This re-entry cover will be hinged, like the SpaceX design. Teams have also installed the OFT-2 spacecraft's propellant heater, thermal protection tiles, and the airbags used to cushion the capsule's landing. The crew module for the OFT-2 mission recently began acceptance testing, which is designed to validate the ship's systems before it is mated with its service module, according to NASA.[65]

List of spacecraftEdit

As of January 2020, Boeing plans to have three Boeing Starliner spacecraft in service to fulfill the needs of the Commercial Crew Program with each spacecraft expected to be capable of being reused up to ten times with a six-month refurbishment time.[68][69] On 25 August 2020, Boeing announced it plans to rotate between two (2) reusable crew modules for all planned Starliner missions.[65] If Boeing does not build Spacecraft 4, there is no spare contingency for spacecraft issues.

Image Designation Name Status Flights Time in flight Notes Cat.
  Spacecraft 1 None Retired 1 1 minute 19 seconds Vehicle used in the Boeing Pad Abort Test and then retired.[70][71][72]  
  Spacecraft 2 None Active 0 None Was first Starliner planned to carry crew, now to be used on OFT-2.[72]  
  Spacecraft 3 Calypso Active 1 2 days 1 hour 22 minutes 10 seconds Named after Jacques Cousteau's research vessel Calypso.[71] First Starliner to fly in space.[71][72]    
  Test article   Spaceflight vehicle

List of flightsEdit

List includes only completed or currently manifested missions. Launch dates are listed in UTC.

Mission Vehicle Launch date (UTC) Crew Remarks Duration Outcome
Boe-PAT Spacecraft 1 4 November 2019, 14:15:00 N/A Pad abort test, White Sands Missile Range, New Mexico. One of three parachutes failed to open due to being rigged incorrectly before launch, but parachute system functioned adequately.[60] 95 seconds Success
Boe-OFT Calypso 20 December 2019, 11:36:43 N/A First uncrewed orbital test flight of Starliner. The mission's main objective of ISS rendezvous was aborted due to software incorrectly keeping mission time, leading to a late orbital insertion burn with excessive fuel expenditure. Starliner landed in New Mexico two days after launch.[73][74][75][61] 2 days Partial failure
Boe-OFT 2 Spacecraft 2 NET 4 January 2021 [76] N/A Second uncrewed orbital test flight of Starliner added due to partial failure of previous test flight. Will attempt to dock with the ISS.[77] 8 days Planned
Boe-CFT Spacecraft 3 July 2021 [65]   Christopher Ferguson
  Mike Fincke
  Nicole Mann
First crewed test flight of Boeing Starliner. Planned
Starliner-1 [5] Spacecraft 2
[citation needed]
December 2021   Sunita Williams
  Josh Cassada
  Jeanette Epps
First operational flight of Boeing Starliner. This was to be a reflight of the OFT vehicle which was christened Calypso by mission commander Williams upon its return to Earth.[78] Planned
Starliner-2 to Starliner-6 Multiple NET 2022-2026   TBA
Following Starliner-1, NASA has contracted Boeing for at least five more operational flights to the ISS.[79] Planned


Starliner mockup and the astronauts initially selected for the first two missions, from left to right: Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada, Eric Boe, Nicole Mann, and Christopher Ferguson.

On 3 August 2018, NASA announced the astronauts who will participate in the first Starliner flights.[51] Eric Boe was one of those initially selected, but was replaced by Michael Fincke in January 2019 due to "personal medical reasons".[80]

Technology partnersEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ CST is an acronym of Crew Space Transportation


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