Boeing confirms delay till August for first unmanned Starliner launch


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No surprise here: Boeing today confirmed that it is delaying until August for first unmanned Starliner test launch.

A statement issued by Boeing on Tuesday confirmed previous reports that the company’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft, designed and built under a $4.2 billion contract from NASA, would miss its previous target launch date for an unpiloted test flight to the International Space Station in April. NASA and industry sources have said for months that an April launch date was not feasible, but NASA and Boeing had not officially published a revised schedule since early February.

The first Starliner test flight with astronauts on-board was previously scheduled for August. In Boeing’s schedule update released Tuesday, the company only said it expects the Crew Flight Test to occur “later this year,” but sources said the Starliner could fly with astronauts in November, at the earliest.

It appears that the fuel leak during a thruster test in June of last year has been the main cause of the delay.

None of this should effect SpaceX, which is primed to fly its mission during the summer. It does however cause more problems for Boeing, which is now also faced with pressure to finish NASA’s SLS rocket, bogged by years of delays and cost overruns.

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7 comments

  • Wodun

    What are the penalties?

    It looks like cost plus overruns and while they may not get more $$ until they meet a milestone, they wont be penalized for missing targets either.

    Maybe my complaint is misplaced as the more time ot costs them, the lower the return on their investment is. It is in their best interest to perform.

  • geoffc

    So if Boeing is sufficiently delayed, will SpaceX get more of the initial missions, or will they make everyone wait for Boeing. One wonders.

  • Kyle

    My guess is that NASA will come up with a reason to delay SpaceX as well

  • Dick Eagleson

    geoffc and Kyle,

    With Trump, Pence and Bridenstine openly on the warpath anent other program delays, I don’t think any invented reasons to hold SpaceX back are going to pass muster this time. If the in-flight abort test goes as expected, SpaceX wiil launch crew in July.

  • Richard M

    Meanwhile, NASA and Boeing in their public statement apparently are blaming…ULA for the delay. Which as some observers are pointing out today, is quite astounding.

    Chris Gebhardt: https://www.nasaspaceflight.com/2019/04/curious-move-nasa-blame-ula-latest-starliner-delay/
    Eric Berger: https://twitter.com/SciGuySpace/status/1113466461257965568

    ULA is keeping silent – what choice do they have? But I give extra points to Tory Bruno for saying something nothing in as a clever a manner as possible: https://twitter.com/torybruno/status/1113484024801107968

  • Edward

    Richard M,
    I’m a bit confused. I do not understand why ULA is taking the heat for this delay until August.

    It is the Air Force’s schedule to launch the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communications satellite in June, and so far they are not in delay; Boeing is. ULA is holding to the previous schedule, not Boeing. If anyone other than Boeing is to blame then it is the Air Force, not ULA, but it is Boeing that is having the problem meeting its own schedule.

    Even Boeing admits in Robert’s linked article that AEHF is “a critical national security payload,” and the criticality of this payload is not ULA’s fault, either.

  • Richard M

    Hello Edward,

    As Gebhardt notes, the bottom line is that Boeing’s Starliner is not ready for a launch this spring. Which makes whatever else is on ULA’s manifest a moot point.

    So we are left to wonder at the decision of NASA and Boeing in this statement to effectively blame ULA’s manifest, rather than Boeing’s delays. It’s a shabby way to treat ULA, which has been a critical player in launching so many of NASA’s science payloads. The only way to clear your confusion is to reach the conclusion that NASA management is working to shift heat away from Boeing.

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