Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule delayed to NET March 2024

Starliner crew capsule atop an Atlas V prior to OFT-2 (Credit Richard Angle)

Boeing expects the Starliner crew capsule to be ready no earlier than March 2024.

However, that could slip further pending the results of parachute tests, software reviews, and International Space Station (ISS) scheduling.

After a disastrous first launch attempt in December 2019, in which after the Starliner capsule separated, a software issue with the Mission Elapsed Time caused the capsule to burn too much propellant and enter the wrong orbit and was unable to reach the ISS, forcing a landing just two days after launch.

OFT-1 liftoff from SLC-41 (Credit Richard Angle)

After correcting this issue, Boeing launched the OFT-2 mission more than two years later, in May 2022, but not without encountering even more problems. During the first launch attempt in August 2021, valves located on the propulsion module were found to be stuck after moisture managed to get into the system and cause corrosion.

During today’s teleconference with Boeing and NASA officials, it was stated that the only remaining issues are parachute testing, software reviews, and finishing the removal of flammable tape that had been installed on the spacecraft.

Boeing will conduct a drop test in November this year when the change to the parachute system is expected to be completed, namely the soft link that connects the main line from the capsule to the risers up to the canopy.

The company has also removed a “substantial number of pounds” of a tape used to cover wire harnesses that were found to be flammable in certain high oxygen environments and continues to work on that issue.

Boeing expects Starliner to be ready by March 2024. However, that does not mean it’ll launch then, as they need to make sure United Launch Alliance has launch pad availability and the ISS schedule is open. That could push the launch to Mid-2024.

Starliner OFT-2 launch (Credit Richard Angle)

If the Crew Flight Test does occur in Spring/early Summer 2024, that will be nearly four years since SpaceX conducted their Demo 2 launch to the ISS.

The first operational crewed flight may not come until 2025. Boeing is contracted for six crewed missions to the International Space Station.

Meanwhile, SpaceX and NASA just named the Crew 8 members and are scheduled to launch in early 2024.

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Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule delayed to NET March 2024
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