After a month from the engine test issues, Boeing will have to delay the first two major test flights to the ISS of their future passenger spacecraft – The CST-100 Starliner.
Before the engine problem, Boeing was planning to start the tests this year, but they had to change the schedule, so it is possible that both tests will start in 2019.
Boeing develops the Starliner after NASA chose them and SpaceX to each build a spacecraft that would send humans to the ISS. NASA’s Commercial Crew program intends to use one of the private US spacecraft and stop relying on the international ones.
The spacecraft must carry seven passengers to the ISS. It will use an Atlas V rocket, but before sending a manned crew, it must first conduct an uncrewed and a crewed flight test and see if the capsule is safe to use on multiple trips to the station.
The schedule was that Starliner would test an uncrewed flight this month and then a crewed launch in November. Experts believe that with the latest complications, the first uncrewed flight test will take place at the end of 2018 – the beginning in 2019 and the manned flight test will take place in mid-2019.
Boeing also had an abort system that would save passengers in case something goes wrong on the Launchpad. They previously scheduled the test at the end of August, but they delayed it until the next spring.
Creating a Safe Vehicle According to the Schedule
The vice president and program manager for Starliner, John Mulholland, stated that they have “a dedicated team of both ourselves and the contractor working diligently on those corrective actions.”
However, even before the failure took place in June, the reports from the Government Accountability Office stated that Boeing’s vehicle will be certified at the beginning of 2020, even though Boeing claims that their test program is 80% completed until now.
Mulholland added that he has no “visibility into SpaceX progress or the fidelity of the SpaceX schedule,” and that they only focus on making “sure we do everything we can to ensure a safe vehicle and meeting the schedule parameters that I’ve laid out.”
Tomorrow, NASA will announce the chosen crew for the first Commercial Crew flights and probably add more information on Boeing’s and SpaceX flights.
Andre Blair s is the lead editor for Advocator.ca. He holds a B.A. in Psychology from the University of Toronto, and a Master of Science in Public Health (M.S.P.H.) from the School of Public Health, Department of Health Administration, at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Andre specializes in environmental health, but writes on a variety of issues.