Boeing’s aspiration to venture into space has recently encountered a series of technical setbacks, particularly with its ambitious Starliner program. Nonetheless, the aerospace manufacturer expressed assurance during a press conference on Monday that the prevailing challenges will be resolved by March next year. By then, the reusable crew spacecraft should be prepared for testing with onboard NASA astronauts.
Boeing’s VP and Starliner Program Manager, Mark Nappi, clarified during the announcement, according to CNBC, that while they anticipate the spacecraft will be ready by early March, this doesn’t translate to a confirmed launch date at that time. He elaborated that Boeing is currently coordinating with NASA – Commercial Crew program, the International Space Station (ISS), and ULA to identify potential launch dates that align with their readiness. Over the upcoming weeks, they’ll ascertain the most viable timeframe and then establish an official launch date.
The Starliner program, unveiled in 2010, represents Boeing’s contribution to the reusable crew spacecraft competition, currently dominated by SpaceX and its Dragon 2 capsule.
Both companies received grants simultaneously in 2014 for the development of systems that could transport astronauts to the ISS, with a contract deadline set for 2017. However, Boeing’s initial launch date was postponed from 2017 to late 2018 by 2016, and by April 2018, NASA revised its expected launch timeframe to between 2019 and 2020.
The program faced further delay when the first uncrewed orbital test flight in 2019 failed to achieve orbit. Nevertheless, NASA agreed to finance a second uncrewed test in August 2021, which was unsuccessful due to a “valve issue”. Resolving this problem stretched until May of the following year, when the subsequent test flight was successfully completed.
Despite these advances, two subsequent attempts at crewed flights were not successful. After finding flaws in the parachute system and wiring harnesses, the scheduled flight on July 21 had to be aborted. As a result, Boeing now believes that by March, the Starliner will be ready to ferry two NASA astronauts to the ISS for a weeklong stay. The project’s cost overruns are estimated to have totaled around $1.5 billion for Boeing.
All products recommended by BuyTechBlog are handpicked by our editorial team, with no influence from our parent company. Some of our articles contain affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices were accurate at the time of publication.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about Boeing’s Starliner
When is Boeing’s Starliner expected to be ready for crewed flights?
Boeing’s Starliner is anticipated to be ready for crewed flights by March next year.
What are some of the technical issues that the Starliner program has faced?
The Starliner program has faced multiple technical setbacks, including a failed uncrewed orbital test flight in 2019, and a scrubbed flight in July 2021 due to faults discovered in the parachute system and wiring harnesses.
Who is currently leading the reusable crew spacecraft competition?
As of now, SpaceX with its Dragon 2 capsule is leading the competition in reusable crew spacecraft.
What was the initial deadline for Boeing’s Starliner to transport astronauts to the ISS?
The initial contract deadline to transport astronauts to the ISS was set for 2017.
How much has the delay in the Starliner program cost Boeing?
The delays in the Starliner program have resulted in an estimated $1.5 billion in project cost overruns for Boeing.