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June 4, 2023

Technical Challenges Cause Further Delay for Boeing's Starliner Crewed Flight Test

In December 2019, Starliner's first OFT test flight was flawed, adding to a series of setbacks

Boeing and NASA announced a setback on Thursday as technical issues have once again delayed the first crewed flight test of the Starliner capsule. Initially scheduled for July 21, the mission had already been postponed from its original April launch date. During a media briefing, officials refrained from providing a new launch date. However, Boeing's VP of commercial crew, Mark Nappi, assured that the leadership would diligently address the spacecraft's technical concerns to ensure its safety for flight.

Boeing engineers recently uncovered two fresh issues plaguing the Starliner capsule, according to Nappi. The first problem relates to the parachute systems, as incorrect load limit data was discovered, revealing certain sections of the parachute with lower failure load limits than previously identified. The second issue concerns the tape used to wrap around wire harnesses in the spacecraft, which was found to be flammable. Remarkably, the tape had undergone testing late in the development process and was present on the previous uncrewed flight test of the Starliner.

Despite these setbacks, Nappi expressed cautious optimism about the possibility of a launch later this yearDespite this, he did not commit to specific dates or times, emphasizing the importance of understanding the next steps in a comprehensive manner. As part of its partnership with NASA, Boeing has developed the Starliner, a crewed capsule for transporting astronauts to and from the International Space Station, alongside SpaceX's Dragon capsule.. While SpaceX has made substantial progress with its contracted missions, Boeing has encountered persistent technical challenges, leading to delays and bearing the associated costs within its fixed-cost contract structure.

Nappi reiterated that safety remains the utmost priority, driving their decision-making process. Despite the disappointment caused by the delay, the Boeing team remains committed to making the right choices and upholding the highest safety standards. Nappi acknowledged the "growing pains" inherent in vehicle development but stressed Boeing's steadfast commitment to their commercial crew aspirations, assuring that they have no intention of abandoning their ambitious goals in this domain.

Boeing and NASA face another delay for the crewed flight test of the Starliner capsule due to new technical complications. While the exact launch date remains uncertain, Boeing's determination to address the challenges and prioritize safety underscores their commitment to delivering a reliable spacecraft for future missions. As they continue to navigate these hurdles, the team remains resolute in their pursuit of commercial crew ambitions, ensuring that safety and meticulous planning remain at the forefront of their endeavors.

Neil Hodgson Coyle
Neil Hodgson-Coyle
Editorial chief at TechNews180
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