Boeing's Starliner astronaut launch is delayed once again

In 2014, Boeing and SpaceX were awarded multibillion-dollar contracts to fly astronauts to the ISS. Boeing has fallen far behind.
Chris Young
Boeing's Starliner during OFT 2.
Boeing's Starliner during OFT 2.


Boeing has once again delayed the first crewed launch of its Starliner astronaut capsule.

The Starliner program is already years behind schedule and has gone wildly over budget. Boeing had intended to launch two NASA astronauts, Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, in July, but two issues arose shortly before launching causing them to delay the mission.

Now, the aerospace giant has announced it will launch the crewed Starliner mission, called Crew Flight Test (CFT), no earlier than March 2024.

Boeing announces Starliner launch readiness date

The CFT mission is set to fly to the International Space Station (ISS) and back next year, following a string of delays to the Boeing and NASA mission.

The latest delay came in early July when Boeing and NASA announced they were delaying the launch of CFT indefinitely as they had discovered issues with Starliner's parachute system and its wiring.

Shortly afterward, Boeing and NASA officials announced the launch may still go ahead this fall. Yesterday, though, on August 7, they confirmed that it now won't happen this year.

"Based on the current plans, we're anticipating that we're going to be ready with the spacecraft in early March," Mark Nappi, Boeing's Starliner vice president and program manager, said during a press conference, which can be viewed in its entirety below.

It's worth noting that the March date is only a launch readiness estimate, meaning the actual launch date may be set for after March.

Boeing's long-delayed astronaut program

Back in September 2014, NASA awarded Boeing and SpaceX multibillion-dollar contracts to send astronauts to and from the ISS.

The delays to Boeing's Starliner program are highlighted by the fact that SpaceX is preparing to send its seventh operational astronaut mission to the ISS for NASA, called Crew-7, on August 25. Prior to these operational missions, SpaceX flew two astronauts to the ISS on a test mission called Demo-2. CFT is the Starliner equivalent of SpaceX's Demo-2.

Starliner has performed two uncrewed tests, though, called Orbital Flight Test (OFT) and OFT-2. OFT reached orbit after launching in December 2019, but it failed to dock with the ISS due to a number of problems that arose shortly after liftoff. OFT-2, meanwhile, launched in May 2022 and it successfully docked with the ISS.

When Boeing's Starliner capsule does eventually take flight for the CFT mission, it will launch atop a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. The capsule itself will include a new parachute system, as well as modifications made to prevent flammability issues discovered in its wiring.

"We're now working with NASA's Commercial Crew Program, ISS and ULA on potential launch dates based on our readiness," Nappi said. "It's a complicated manifest on ISS, as you all know, and the launch pad of ULA. So, we'll work that throughout the next several weeks and see where we can get fit in, and then we'll set a launch date." 

Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
Add Interesting Engineering to your Google News feed.
message circleSHOW COMMENT (1)chevron
Job Board