NASA pushes first operational Boeing Starliner mission to 2024

A Boeing Starliner approaches the International Space Station on May 20, 2022.

A Boeing Starliner approaches the International Space Station on May 20, 2022.
picture: NASA

The first operational mission of Boeing’s Starliner CST-100 spacecraft to the International Space Station won’t occur until 2024 at the earliest, according to NASA’s updated flight statement. The capsule, designed to carry crews into low Earth orbit, was originally supposed to fly in 2017 but faced a series of delays.

Starliner’s first manned test flight will happen in April 2023 and not in February as planned, NASA announce late last week. The space agency says the reason is to avoid a schedule conflict with the SpaceX Crew-6 mission to the International Space Station, which is scheduled for mid-February. “The space agency said NASA and Boeing are currently working together to achieve flight readiness. NASAPioneers Sunita Williams and Barry Wilmore are assigned to the Boeing Crew Flight Test (CFT).

NASA has also taken the step of rescheduling the SpaceX Crew-7 mission, which will now launch in late 2023 instead of early 2024. This schedule manipulation means that no operational Starliner flights are planned for next year and that the spacecraft, assuming it has been certified in year 2023, will not fly in good faith Expedition Until 2024 at the earliest.

In May , The second unmanned flight test of the Starliner, OFT-2, went reasonably well, but the mission to the International Space Station exposed some problems that Boeing and NASA are currently working on. “The joint team continues to close OFT-2 anomalies and works closely together to identify advanced work and ensure all requirements for manned flight are met,” NASA said, adding that the team is “working on a variety of verification efforts across the many critical systems that will be used to obtain certification.” Starliner crew flight”.

Opaque and ambiguous, as is usual for NASA in its public statements about private partners. Phil McAllister, director of commercial spaceflight at NASA, provided more details during the October 31 meeting of the Human Exploration and Operations Committee of the NASA Advisory Board, space news mentioned. “There were several in-flight anomalies that we had to evaluate” of OFT-2, he said. And some of that is still going on. This work must be completed and closed before the CFT flight.” In addition to the “well-understood and at-hand” propulsion issues, the team is working on parachutes and software. McAllister said it “would not describe anything as groundbreaking.”

Depending on how the CFT mission develops, Starliner could finally receive certification next year, followed by periodic crewed missions to the International Space Station. But as the rescheduling of the Crew-7 mission shows, NASA isn’t making any assumptions about the spacecraft’s pending availability — and for good reason. Boeing’s commercial crew project has faced difficulties, most notably a He missed his first flight test of 2019 and a failed launch attempt in 2020, in which Corrosion causes the capsule valves to trip.

NASA had to bend even harder As a result, on its other business partner, SpaceX. The Elon Musk-led company, using its Crew Dragon spacecraft, has been launching astronauts to the International Space Station since November 2020. The selection of vendors was intended to create some redundancy, but that hasn’t happened yet. Mark Cirangelo, an ISS crew launch expert, said: “While fortunately the United States has one operating provider for ISS crew launches, we need to continue to express our grave concern about the impact of the ongoing delays of the CST-100 program on Commercial Crew Program. Oct. 31 panel member and researcher in residence in aerospace, aerospace, and engineering at the University of Colorado, as reported by SpaceNews.

NASA, unwilling and unable to wait for the Starliner, recently Booked a batch of manned launches with SpaceX, namely Crew-7 through Crew-14. With these newly added missions, NASA has been able to secure access to the International Space Station until 2030, after which time the orbital laboratory is expected to retire. By contrast, Starliner is booked for just six flights.

NASA awarded Boeing a $4.2 billion contract for the commercial crew in 2014. In October, Boeing announces it has taken a $190 million hit on StarlinerThis brings the company’s total loss on the program to $883 million. To make matters worse, Boeing dropped SpaceX on NASA’s list of private partners during fiscal year 2022.

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