First manned Starliner flight delayed

Please consider donating to Behind the Black, by giving either a one-time contribution or a regular subscription, as outlined in the tip jar below. Your support will allow me to continue covering science and culture as I have for the past twenty years, independent and free from any outside influence.


Regular readers can support Behind The Black with a contribution via paypal:

Or with a subscription with regular donations from your Paypal or credit card account:


If Paypal doesn't work for you, you can support Behind The Black directly by sending your donation by check, payable to Robert Zimmerman, to
Behind The Black
c/o Robert Zimmerman
P.O.Box 1262
Cortaro, AZ 85652

Boeing has revealed that the first manned flight of Starliner will be delayed until 2018.

This delay for Boeing is not really a surprise. Unlike SpaceX, the company had done very little actual development work on the capsule before winning its contract from NASA. They therefore have a lot more to do to become flight worthy. My one worry is their contract. If the contract is fixed price, as with the original cargo contracts awarded SpaceX and Orbital ATK, Boeing will have no incentive to delay, as they won’t be paid anything until they achieve specific milestones and will get no additional monies to cover the added costs of the delay. If the contract is cost-plus, however, NASA’s traditional contract system used for SLS, Orion, and almost every other boondoggle since the 1960s, then Boeing will be paid regardless of the delay, and NASA will also be on the hook for paying the additional delay costs, thus giving Boeing an incentive to slow walk the construction.

I think the contract was fixed-price, but am not sure. Anyone out there have an answer?



  • mkent

    Fixed-price milestone-based.

  • Excellent. Thank you. Do you have a source?

  • Dick Eagleson

    Here’s a link to a search results page from Doug Messier’s Parabolic Arc. The search predicate I used was “Boeing Commercial Crew Milestones.” The most recent stories seem to be from about two years ago, though I didn’t look at them all and they did not come out in chronological order. But Boeing’s contract is plainly a fixed-price-per-milestone deal. The milestones are described in some detail.

    So, yes, it seems Boeing will eat the cost of the Starliner delay.

  • mkent

    “Do you have a source?”

    In this case my source is me. But you probably want something more definitive.

    OK, how about…


    “The contract contains three Contract Line Item Numbers (CLINs) for each effort:

    CLIN 001 Fixed Price Core Contract for DDTE/Certification
    CLIN 002 Fixed Price IDIQ for Post Certification Missions (PCM)
    CLIN 003 Fixed Price IDIQ for Special Studies”

    BTW, a preview function would be helpful.

  • mkent

    BTW, the length of the delay is not being widely reported. It’s currently about four months, from Oct 2017 to Feb 2018. Boeing’s current schedule is:

    Oct 17 Pad abort test
    Dec 17 Unmanned flight test
    Feb 18 Manned flight test

    I’m hearing SpaceX had a slightly bigger slip, but they didn’t announce it. Echoes of the CRS-2 contract, where Boeing announced that they had been eliminated, but Lockheed never did, even though they had been eliminated five months before Boeing. Each company chooses differently what information to share.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *