Boeing’s Starliner: Manned Flight Delayed Indefinitely

Starliner: First manned flight of Boeing's spaceship postponed after all

Boeing’s Space Shuttle Starliner has been postponed again, less than two months before its first manned launch. According to the US aviation group, problems were discovered before the weekend that reduced the safety margin too much. ArsTechnica reports that the connections of the three parachutes for landing are weaker than expected, while a glass cloth tape designed to protect wiring was found to be flammable under certain circumstances. Both issues could significantly delay the planned start.

The Starliner space capsule was planned to fly into space for the first time with people on board on 21 July, after years of delays. NASA astronauts were scheduled to use it to fly to the International Space Station and return to Earth. Only after this manned test could NASA certify the space capsule for regular flights.

Boeing’s competitor SpaceX has been conducting regular flights for more than three years and already managed six. Like the Crew Dragon, Boeing’s Starliner is the result of NASA’s efforts to outsource manned spaceflight to the private sector. Boeing’s spaceship completed its unmanned maiden flight at the end of December 2019, and the second start was delayed more and more before succeeding a year ago.

Recently, NASA was asked to commission independent experts to carry out a review of the Starliner. The fact that such major problems have been overlooked should only reinforce the criticism. The Starliner is becoming more expensive for the group, and it is questionable how long Boeing will stick to the project given SpaceX’s routine. The responsible Boeing manager has assured that there are currently no serious debates about leaving the NASA program.

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