Alabama’s role in the space program was on full display last month in Decatur. The United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V Dual Engine Centaur and first stage Booster that will launch astronauts to the International Space Station aboard Boeing’s Starliner capsule departed ULA’s Decatur facility. The rockets were loaded into the Mariner, a 312-foot long ship that travel to Cape Canaveral, Florida, for the Starliner Crew Flight Test.
The Atlas V rocket is built at the ULA facility in Decatur due to hardworking Alabama workforce. ULA employs 600 people in their factory and every individual plays a part in the steps to place an American in space and has launched 133 missions to date.
The Atlas V rocket that departed Decatur will be part of the Crew Flight Test of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner that is targeted for later this year. A trusted, proven rocket, the Atlas V has had 79 successful launches to date and has established itself as a reliable launch vehicle.
The Atlas V booster is not the only part of this mission to come from Alabama. The Boeing Design Center – South located at the Huntsville Jetplex Center is also responsible for all of the mechanical design engineering of Boeing’s Starliner Capsule. The center manufactures all parts of the rocket including fabrication, machining, welding, testing, engine installation and all of the thousands of intricate details that go into assembling an Atlas V rocket.
It’s also where the Starliner spacecraft gets its power. The Boeing Huntsville Phantom Works team assembled, tested, and delivered the world’s largest and most complex rechargeable battery system for human spaceflight.
The CFT Dual Engine Centaur fabrication started in June of 2017. It started out as a raw coil of stainless steel and was completed in March.
The Starliner was designed to accommodate seven passengers, or a mix of crew and cargo. The spacecraft has an innovative, weldless structure and is reusable up to 10 times with a six-month turnaround time.
By transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station safely, reliably and affordably from U.S. soil, Boeing’s Starliner will ensure NASA and the United States remain a leader in space exploration.