Centaur Ready To Launch First Starliner

Image Credit: United Launch Alliance

November 29, 2018 – The dual-engine Centaur upper stage that will power Boeing’s first CST-100 Starliner crew capsule into space for its Orbital Flight Test is one step closer to launch.

Inside a ULA launch site test cell, the Centaur has been hoisted upright and attached to the interstage adapter that supports the stage atop the Atlas V rocket’s first stage during the initial minutes of launch. The Launch Vehicle Adapter (LVA) was mated to the forward end of Centaur and provides the mechanical interface to attach Starliner.

This three-piece combined element is called the OVI stack, or Off-site Vertical Integration, for the Atlas V rocket’s launch campaign. It will be driven to the Vertical Integration Facility and lifted atop the first stage when the time comes.

The Atlas V program evolved to OVI stacking operations in 2015 to improve launch processing techniques and enable schedule efficiencies. This process eliminates several days of lifting operations at the VIF that would require acceptable weather to stack each structure separately.

The Centaur was built at ULA’s manufacturing facility located in Decatur, Alabama. It arrived at Cape Canaveral aboard the Mariner cargo ship on October 19 and spent two weeks undergoing receiving activities at the Atlas Spaceflight Operations Center before the short drive to the Delta Operations Center to begin the OVI assembly sequence. The LVA arrived at the Cape on November 12.

Centaur will separate from the interstage adapter during in-flight staging before igniting its twin RL10A-4-2 engines more than four minutes after liftoff. Starliner will be released from the Launch Vehicle Adapter when the spacecraft separates from the Atlas V to conclude the launch.

United Launch Alliance is headquartered in Centennial, Colorado.