First manned Starliner flight further delayed
WASHINGTON — NASA has delayed the maiden flight of Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle with astronauts on board, a slip that will push the spacecraft’s first operational mission back to 2024.
NASA said on Nov. 3 that the Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission, with astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Suni Williams on board, was now scheduled for April 2023. The mission was previously scheduled for February.
NASA said the new date avoids a conflict with the SpaceX Crew-6 mission to the International Space Station, currently scheduled for mid-February. “The date adjustment will prevent spacecraft visits to the space station as NASA and Boeing work together to achieve flight readiness,” the agency said, adding that both Starliner and its Atlas 5 rocket “remain on track for readiness in the spacecraft.” beginning of 2023.”
However, at an Oct. 27 meeting of NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel, members expressed doubts about the vehicle’s readiness for both CFT and subsequent operational missions.
“While it is fortunate that the US has one operational ISS crew launch provider, we must continue to express our grave concern about the impact of the ongoing delays of the CST-100 program on the commercial crew program,” said Mark Sirangelo, a member of the panel. That impact, he said, includes the lack of redundancy the program aimed for by selecting two companies.
He noted that Starliner’s Orbital Flight Test (OFT) 2 unmanned test flight in May “produced a number of in-flight anomalies” that need to be resolved before CFT, as well as additional testing of the latest version of its flight software.
Sirangelo added that NASA’s commercial crew program tracked additional long-term issues with Starliner, including the transition to the first operational or post-certification missions, the transition of the Atlas 5 vehicle that United Launch Alliance is retiring and the availability of spare hardware, “which can further delay the second source provider coming online.”
At an Oct. 31 meeting of the NASA Advisory Council’s Human Exploration and Operations Committee, Phil McAlister, director of commercial spaceflight at NASA headquarters, hinted at a possible delay in the CFT mission and said a new launch date would be forthcoming soon. would be released. However, he downplayed any problems with the spacecraft.
“There were several in-flight anomalies that we had to assess” from the OFT-2 mission, he said. “Some of it is still ongoing. That work must be completed and completed before the CFT flight.”
Later asked about specific issues with Starliner being studied, McAlister said work continued on parachutes and software. There were also problems with the thruster on the unmanned mission, but those are “pretty well understood and in control,” he said. “I wouldn’t characterize anything as important.”
The delay in CFT will affect the planning of subsequent operational missions. When CFT was scheduled to launch in February, NASA tentatively planned to follow that with the first operational Starliner mission, dubbed Starliner-1, in the fall of 2023. Once Starliner is certified, NASA plans to alternate between Starliner and Crew Dragon missions.
However, NASA said it has moved SpaceX’s Crew-7 mission, previously scheduled for spring 2024, to fall 2023, indicating the agency no longer believes Starliner can be certified in time for an operational mission. mission in the fall of 2023 .
“A launch date for NASA’s Boeing Starliner-1 mission will be determined after a successful flight test with astronauts and the conclusion of the agency’s certification work,” NASA said in announcing the delay.
Boeing announced October 26 as part of its quarterly financial results that: it would cost an additional $195 million depreciation to revenue for Starliner delays, bringing the total losses recorded by the company to $883 million. It warned in a regulatory filing that “we may incur additional losses in future periods.”
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