Boeing indefinitely delays Starliner astronaut mission for NASA after discovering more issues

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Boeing employees work on the company’s Starliner capsule in preparation for the first crew flight test, Jan. 19, 2023.
John Grant / Boeing

Boeing is further delaying the first crewed launch of its Starliner spacecraft after discovering additional issues with the capsule, the company announced alongside NASA on Thursday.

The Starliner crew flight test was most recently scheduled for July 21 and was due to carry a pair of NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. Boeing discovered two new problems with Starliner: one affecting the safety of its parachute systems and another involving a specific tape that was discovered to be flammable.

“We’ve decided to stand down the preparation for the CFT mission in order to correct these problems,” Boeing VP and Starliner manager Mark Nappi said during a press conference.

Nappi noted the discussion to delay the launch went to “the top levels of Boeing,” with CEO Dave Calhoun involved.

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The delay is the latest in a series of disruptions for Starliner’s first crewed flight. The July timeline was itself a delay from a previous target of April. A new flight target is pending, NASA and Boeing said Thursday.

The company has been developing its Starliner spacecraft under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, having won nearly $5 billion in contracts to build the capsule. Boeing’s program competes with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which is poised to finish all six of its originally contracted NASA missions before Boeing flies its first.

Boeing was once seen as evenly matched with SpaceX in the race to launch NASA astronauts but fell behind due to development setbacks.

As a result of those delays, and of the fixed-cost nature of its NASA contract, Boeing has accrued $833 million in losses over more than two years on the Starliner program.

Nappi on Thursday emphasized Boeing is “still committed” to finishing work on the capsule and flying for NASA.

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