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Starliner’s first manned mission to ISS delayed again

According to a tweet by a NASA official, the first manned mission to ISS of Boeing’s Starliner capsule, carrying two NASA astronauts, has been delayed again, from the planned late April launch to sometime during the summer.

No reasons for the delay were given, as yet. The second link notes however that a schedule conflict at ULA, which is launching Starliner on its Atlas-5 rocket, might be part of the reason.

A launch in late April [of Starliner on the Atlas-5] would have put it in conflict with the inaugural launch of United Launch Alliance’s Vulcan Centaur rocket, currently scheduled for as soon as May 4. Vulcan and Atlas use the same launch pad at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station, and ULA has been conducting tests of the Vulcan rocket on that pad. It has not shared updates on the status of the Atlas 5 used for Starliner.

This conflict might also explain why Starliner itself has not yet been fueled, since Boeing officials have said they want to do this within 60 days of launch to avoid the same kind of valve leaks that delayed the second unmanned demo mission for almost a year.

Starliner itself is years behind schedule, a long delay that has cost Boeing an enormous amount of income. First, the problems during the first unmanned demo flight in December 2019 forced the company to do a second unmanned demo flight, on its own dime costing about $400 million. That second flight was then delayed because of those valve issues. All the delays next cost Boeing income from NASA, as the agency was forced to purchase many manned flights from SpaceX that it had intended to buy from Boeing.

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Conscious Choice: The origins of slavery in America and why it matters today and for our future in outer space, is a riveting page-turning story that documents how slavery slowly became pervasive in the southern British colonies of North America, colonies founded by a people and culture that not only did not allow slavery but in every way were hostile to the practice.  
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  • Ray Van Dune

    The NASA article also mentions that Starliner will wait until after completion the Axiom mission to ISS. It is hard not to assume that multiple other efforts are ranked more important than Starliner, even though lack of its crew certification means NASA continues to be single-sourced to SpaceX for crewed ISS missions (unless you include Roscosmos). Perhaps someone has decided that relying on SpaceX for a while longer is an acceptable risk?

    Ps. And why is Starliner flying with only two crew, when at one time the plan was for a crew of four, including a Boeing astronaut? Can you spell “dead-end”?

  • Richard M

    The second link notes however that a schedule conflict at ULA, which is launching Starliner on its Atlas-5 rocket, might be part of the reason.

    The schedule *is* is tight and awkward, both for ULA and for NASA.

    But I think in part it is being used to obscure the fact that Boeing and NASA have a number of issues with the vehicle that they need more time to close out.

    Obviously, it helps, too, that NASA now has a reliable lift to orbit in the form of Crew Dragon, and that eases any urgency they have to get Starliner up there.

    Still, I think it is in our interest to have Starliner operational for crew. Redundant crew access to orbit is valuable (even if it is overpriced!), and I would rather have that redundancy be American than Russian.

  • Richard M

    Ps. And why is Starliner flying with only two crew, when at one time the plan was for a crew of four, including a Boeing astronaut? Can you spell “dead-end”?

    Starliner is designed for four crew (actually, with room for a fifth seat). But it is the same situation as it was with the crewed test flight for Crew Dragon in May 2020, where only Behnken and Doug Hurley took the Dragon up for its first crewed flight: you don’t need four astronauts to put the vehicle through its paces on a short test flight, and there is no point in putting any more than you need to at risk for this.

    Future, operational crew missions on Starliner will all host at least four astronauts, just as Dragon does.

    EDIT: The initial plan for the CFT mission was for THREE astronauts. Two of them were to be NASA astronauts, and the other was an astronaut employed by Boeing, Chris Ferguson. But Ferguson eventually bowed out of the mission, claiming family priorities, and Boeing ultimately never replaced him, deciding to forego having its own astronaut on the flight.

  • Star Bird

    So when can we build a Sleeper Ship S.S. Botony Bay and launch it with all those violent Antifa, BLM and their DNC supporters?

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