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Boeing's Starliner: A Decade of Delays

Boeing's Starliner capsule has faced a turbulent journey over the past decade, grappling with delays and setbacks
June 9, 2024

Boeing's Starliner, a space capsule designed to ferry astronauts to and from the International Space Station (ISS), stands as a significant milestone in commercial space travel. Initiated in 2014 under NASA's Commercial Crew Program, Boeing secured a $4.2 billion contract to develop this human-grade capsule. This ambitious project, alongside SpaceX’s $2.6 billion Crew Dragon venture, marked a pivotal shift in how NASA approached crewed space missions.

Caleb Henry, director of research at Quilty Space, highlighted the novelty of this program. "The entirety of the Commercial Crew Program was very much a new venture," he noted, emphasizing that NASA traditionally relied on its in-house engineering prowess to achieve manned space travel. This program represented a strategic shift, allowing NASA to delegate some of its responsibilities to the private sector.

However, this transition wasn't without its challenges. Congressional skepticism loomed over the new approach, but Boeing’s involvement helped garner the necessary confidence and approval. "There was some reticence in Congress towards this type of approach," Henry explained. "It was only because Boeing threw its hat in the ring that Congress and by extension, NASA, were confident enough to actually go forward with this program."

Despite initial optimism, Boeing has faced significant hurdles over the past decade. The company has struggled to deliver on its six contracted missions, spending $1.5 billion of the nearly $5 billion received to cover delays and overruns. The Starliner’s development has been a tale of perseverance amid setbacks. Recently, Boeing launched a critical test flight, a crewed mission crucial for NASA's certification of the Starliner for operational missions.

In contrast, SpaceX has surged ahead, completing over a dozen crewed missions since 2020. The Crew Dragon capsule has successfully transported both NASA astronauts and private citizens, showcasing a stark difference in progress between the two companies.

To delve deeper into the challenges Boeing has faced and what lies ahead for the Starliner, watch our detailed video coverage. As Boeing strives to overcome its obstacles, the future of the Starliner holds the promise of contributing to the ongoing human exploration of space.

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