Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft is seen prior to docking with the International Space Station May 20, 2022 during the OFT-2 unmanned mission.
Boeing announced Monday that the company aims to be ready to fly NASA astronauts in its Starliner capsule for the first time by March, altering its schedule after the company postponed a planned launch this summer.
“Based on current plans, we expect to be ready with the spacecraft by early March,” Boeing vice president and Starliner executive Mark Nappi said during a news conference.
“That doesn’t mean we have an early March launch date,” Nappi added. “We are now working with the NASA commercial crew program [International Space Station] – and ULA [United Launch Alliance] on possible start dates based on our readiness…we’ll be working over the next few weeks and see where we can get fit and then we’ll set a start date.”
The company continues to work on the Starliner crew flight test, designed to ferry NASA astronauts to the ISS in a final demonstration before regular spaceflights begin.
Boeing has delayed the launch twice this year — most recently due to problems with the spacecraft’s parachutes and some type of tape used during assembly — and now expects the capsule to fly crewed until next year.
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On Monday, NASA and Boeing officials said work to replace the troubled ribbon is expected to be completed by the end of September and a parachute drop test is planned for “mid to late” November. Boeing’s Nappi noted that the parachute work is “the critical avenue” to being operational in March.
Steve Stich, NASA Commercial Crew Manager, said Starliner is 98% complete in terms of progress on the agency’s certification of the spacecraft to carry its astronauts.
As for the timing of Boeing’s first operational flight, Stich deferred the decision, saying it would depend on the timing and outcome of the last test flight.
“Could we put it up by the end of next year? It’s probably a little too early to say whether or not we’ll be able to accommodate this flight,” said Stich.
Starliner continues to be a costly and behind-the-schedule endeavor for Boeing. Due to years of delays and overruns in development costs, Boeing reported last month that the company has so far absorbed about $1.5 billion in overages.
https://www.cnbc.com/2023/08/07/boeing-resets-starliners-first-crewed-spaceflight-target-for-march.html Boeing resets Starliner’s first manned spaceflight target for March