The joint team that will launch the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket and Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner on its Orbital Test Flight conducted a successful Integrated Crew Exercise (ICE) on February 12.
ULA, Boeing, NASA and Air Force personnel executed a mock countdown that practiced fueling the rocket and operating on the unique launch day timeline that features a four-hour built-in hold at the T-minus 4 minute mark. The Blue Team entered Space Launch Complex-41 and took the Crew Access Tower elevator to the White Room for simulated work to ready the Starliner’s crew module for flight.
The team was given simulated issues with hardware and downrange assets to exercise troubleshooting, problem resolution procedures and the coordination that goes into adjusting the countdown as necessary. There were even simulated challenges from the weather, forcing officials to react to a changing weather conditions at the pad.
The exercise culminated with a successful liftoff and climb into space.
Participants were in various locations just like they will be on the day of launch, including Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and Kennedy Space Center in Florida, Denver, Colorado and Johnson Space Center in Houston, Texas.
Formal rehearsals like this one allow the combined organizations to practice as one team, demonstrate the roles and responsibilities of each team member and practice the countdown scripts.
Leading the Atlas V countdown were ULA Chief Launch Conductor Doug Lebo, ULA Launch Director Bill Cullen and ULA Anomaly Chief Dave McFarland. Key personnel leading CST-100 Starliner activities were Spacecraft Mission Director LeRoy Cain at the Cape, Spacecraft Launch Conductor Louis Atchison at Boeing Mission Control at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center and Flight Director Richard Jones in the Mission Control Center at NASA’s Johnson Space Center in Houston. Commercial Crew astronaut Mike Fincke also participated in the simulation.
The OFT will be the uncrewed test of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Starliner will launch to the International Space Station for an automated rendezvous and docking, complete a short stay and then return to Earth.