United Launch Alliance has positioned the first stage of its Atlas V rocket on a mobile launch platform in line with preparations for the Boeing-built Starliner spacecraft’s unmanned test flight, Spaceflight Now reported Wednesday.
ULA is looking to incorporate solid rocket boosters from Aerojet Rocketdyne and raise Atlas V’s Centaur upper stage prior to the demonstration.
Starliner was built by Boeing under a $4.2B NASA commercial crew contract and is slated to launch through Atlas V on Dec. 17 at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
The spacecraft will head to the International Space Station during the test flight to demonstrate the former’s capacity for manned missions. Starliner’s capsule will then detach after a week and land to Western U.S.
Caleb Weiss, mission manager for Starliner at ULA, said the flight demo “will give us the opportunity to deploy the crew access arm and verify all the access tower and arm interfaces with the spacecraft.”
“We will fully tank the vehicle, and we will have people out there at the pad that will be simulating day launch operations, just like they will be for a real launch day,” Weiss added.