The first crewed launch of Boeing’s Starliner has again been delayed, this time pushed back to April 2023 from a scheduled February launch date.
The change came with little announcement from NASA, which tweeted the new date as a planning update without any additional details. In an accompanying blog post, NASA said the change was being made to eliminate conflicts between “spacecraft traffic visiting the space station,” but the agency didn’t give much more than that. details.
Starliner has been a drag on Boeing since the company unveiled the capsule in 2010. According to Boeing’s third quarter 2022 filing, Starliner has lost $883 million since 2019.
It was the year Starliner made its first uncrewed launch and docking attempt with the International Space Station, which failed due to a pair of software errors that prevented it from docking and saw him return to Earth early under less than ideal circumstances. .
Attempts at a second launch in 2021 also failed when 13 of the Calamity capsule’s propulsion system valves failed pre-flight checks. Starliner only reached the ISS for the first time last May, but even that launch was not without problems as two of the craft’s 12 thrusters failed once in orbit.
NASA still has concerns about Starliner
NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Board (ASAP) met on October 27 to discuss, among other things [PDF], updates on the commercial crew program. ASAP panel member Mark Sirangelo said remaining issues after the uncrewed launch in May could continue to have an effect – such as delaying the crewed launch of Starliner, a decision NASA made after the Oct. 27 meeting. , though it’s unclear if ASAP’s discussion influenced his choice.
According to Sirangelo, the uncrewed launch in May “produced a number of in-flight anomalies that will need to be addressed before the next flight test.”
Sirangelo also said the new Starliner software would need to undergo additional avionics software integration lab testing before launch.
If and when Starliner flies the crew to the ISS, it will be piloted by Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams, who will stay on the ISS for about two weeks. Once the test flight is complete, Boeing will need to go through a few more certification steps before it can work its way into the commercial launch rotation among SpaceX’s regular trips to the orbital lab.
NASA said SpaceX’s Dragon Endeavor will mark its fourth flight to the ISS when it launches in February on its Crew-6 mission, the month Starliner was originally scheduled for its first crewed flight. This launch will make Dragon Endeavor “the leader of the spacecraft fleet in number of flights to and from the station,” NASA said.
Crew-7, meanwhile, is slated for some time in the fall of 2023. Whether Starliner will have the chance to deliver humans to the ISS between those flights remains to be seen, but those willing to place a bet may want to be wait until April to see if the Calamity capsule can finally get rid of this pejorative. ®
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