Boeing Starliner manned flight postponed to 2024

Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft is postponing its first manned flight again, and is currently experiencing another postponement until mid-April 2024. The change of plans is reported in a NASA press release. This news once again reminds us that delays are not uncommon in space programs, and we will have to wait a little before we see how the Starliner goes into space with astronauts on board.

The Boeing Starliner spacecraft. Illustration:

Permanent postponements

The debut flight of the Starliner with astronauts on board, known as the Crew Flight Test (CFT), was originally scheduled for early March 2024. But this date has always been approximate. Thursday’s statement announced that the official date of the first manned flight of the Starliner was now set for mid-April 2024.

As part of the CFT, two NASA astronauts, Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Sunita “Suni” Williams, will embark on a test flight to the International Space Station (ISS) and return to Earth again. However, the mission encountered numerous technical difficulties and delays that repeatedly postponed the launch. One example: the first Crew Flight Test was originally scheduled for July last year, but was canceled due to problems with the spacecraft’s electrical wiring and its parachute system. 

The Boeing Starliner spacecraft docked with the ISS. Photo: NASA

Recall that in September 2014, NASA chose Boeing and SpaceX to provide flights of astronauts to the ISS and back, concluding multibillion-dollar contracts with each of the companies. SpaceX, with its Crew Dragon, has already successfully completed several flights to the ISS, while Starliner constantly faces failures and delays.

Starliner Future

The first attempt to send a spacecraft to the ISS took place in December 2019, as part of the Orbital Flight Test (OFT) mission. Unfortunately, this flight ended unsuccessfully, because the spacecraft did not reach the ISS as planned. The next mission, OFT-2, was scheduled for May 2022 and successfully reached the ISS and then returned to Earth.

According to the latest NASA press release, the launch of SpaceX’s Crew-8 is scheduled for mid-February 2024. Four crew members of Crew-8 are already known: Commander Matthew Dominick, pilot Mike Barratt, mission specialist Jeanette Epps and cosmonaut Alexander Grebenkin.

While SpaceX continues its missions to the ISS, Boeing aims to perform the first operational flight of a Starliner to the ISS, originally planned for the summer of 2024. However, now this date has also been postponed to analyze the results of the Crew Flight Test and complete all necessary certification procedures before the Starliner-1 mission.

Earlier we reported on how the castling of the crew took place on the Boeing Starliner.

According to Space

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