Boeing Starliner Crewed Flight Test Delayed To March 2024 | AeroSpace News | #AeroSpaceNews Boeing Starliner Crewed Flight Test Delayed To March 2024 | AeroSpace News | #AeroSpaceNews
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Posted by on 09 Aug 2023 in Space News

Boeing Starliner Crewed Flight Test Delayed To March 2024

Artist Impression of Boeing Starliner atop the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas-V Rocket

Artist Impression of Boeing Starliner atop the United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas-V Rocket
Image courtesy: Boeing

Boeing's CST-100 Starliner, a spacecraft designed to ferry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS), will not fly its first crewed mission until at least March 2024, the company announced on Monday. The delay is caused by two technical problems that were discovered during a routine review in late May, just weeks before the planned launch date.

The first problem is related to the parachute system that slows down the capsule during its descent to Earth. Boeing found that some fabric joints on the main parachutes did not meet the required safety standards due to a data entry error by the supplier, Airborne Systems. The company is redesigning and testing the joints, known as soft links, and expects to receive three modified parachutes later this year.

The second problem is a potential fire hazard caused by a tape used to protect wire harnesses throughout the spacecraft. The tape, known as P-213, has a flammable adhesive that could ignite if exposed to an electrical short. Boeing is removing and replacing hundreds of feet of tape from Starliner and assessing the risk of combustion in different zones of the vehicle.

Boeing and NASA said they have made significant progress in resolving both issues, but they need more time to ensure the readiness of Starliner. Boeing and the spacecraft have already faced several setbacks since the company was awarded a $4.4 billion contract by NASA in 2014 to develop a commercial crew transportation system. In December 2019, Starliner failed to dock with the ISS during its first uncrewed test flight due to software glitches. In May 2022, Starliner successfully completed a second uncrewed test flight, paving the way for a crewed flight test this summer.

However, with the latest delay, Starliner will not be ready to fly NASA astronauts Mike Fincke and Nicole Mann, along with Boeing astronaut Chris Ferguson, until early March 2024 at the earliest. The launch date will also depend on the availability of an Atlas V rocket from United Launch Alliance, a window at the launch site, and an opening in the ISS schedule. Boeing hopes to conduct a crewed flight test before launching its first operational mission, Starliner-1, which will carry NASA astronauts Sunita Williams, Josh Cassada and Jeanette Epps, along with a fourth crew member from an international partner.

Meanwhile, SpaceX, Boeing's rival in the commercial crew program, has already flown seven crewed missions to the ISS with its Crew Dragon spacecraft, including three private charters. SpaceX received a $2.6 billion contract from NASA in 2014 and completed its crewed flight test in May 2020.


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