Boeing’s Starliner Launch Delayed Until April • The Register
The first manned launch of Boeing’s Starliner has been postponed again, this time being postponed to April 2023 from a previously planned February launch date.
The change came with a small announcement from NASA, which: the new date tweeted as a schedule update without further details. In an accompanying blog post, NASA said the change was made to eliminate conflicts between “spacecraft traffic visits on the space station,” but the agency didn’t go much further than that.
Starliner has been a drag on Boeing since the company unveiled the capsule in 2010. According to Boeing’s Q3 2022 filing, Starliner has lost the company $883 million since 2019.
That was the year Starliner made its first attempt at an unmanned launch and docking with the International Space Station, which failed due to a few software errors rendering it unable to dock and returning to Earth early under less than ideal conditions.
Attempts at a second launch in 2021 also failed when 13 of the valves of the Calamity Capsule’s propulsion system failed pre-flight checks. Starliner only reached the ISS for the first time last May, but even that launch was not without problems because two of the craft’s 12 thrusters failed once in orbit.
NASA Still Concerned About Starliner
NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel (ASAP) met on October 27 to: other things [PDF], updates on the Commercial Crew program. ASAP panelist Mark Sirangelo said issues left over from the May unmanned launch could continue to have an effect, such as delaying Starliner’s manned launch, a decision made by NASA after the October 27 meeting, although it’s not clear whether the discussion of ASAP the choice.
according to Sirangelothe May unmanned launch produced “a number of in-flight anomalies that need to be worked on prior to the next flight test.”
Sirangelo also said the new Starliner software would need to undergo additional lab testing for avionics software integration prior to launch.
If and when Starliner brings crew to the ISS, it will be flown by Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams, who will stay on the ISS for approximately two weeks. Once the test flight is complete, Boeing will need to take a few other certification steps before it can work its way into the commercial launch rotation between SpaceX’s regular flights to the orbital lab.
NASA said SpaceX’s Dragon Endeavor will mark its fourth flight to the ISS when it launches in February for its Crew-6 mission, the month Starliner was originally scheduled for its first manned flight. That launch will make Dragon Endeavor “the leader of the spacecraft fleet in the number of flights to and from the station,” NASA said.
Crew-7, meanwhile, is scheduled for some time in the fall of 2023. Whether or not Starliner will get a chance to get people to the ISS between those flights remains to be seen, but those willing to bet may want to wait until April to get it. to see if the Calamity Capsule can finally shed that pejorative. ®
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