Boeing will redo Starliner capsule's uncrewed test flight

Katie Ramirez
April 7, 2020

The goal is to end the agency's sole reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft to carry USA crews to and from the International Space Station.

"Flying another uncrewed flight will allow us to complete all flight test objectives and evaluate the performance of the second Starliner vehicle at no cost to the taxpayer", the company said in a statement.

SpaceX carried out a successful unpiloted test flight of its Crew Dragon spacecraft a year ago and is gearing up for a second test flight, this one with two NASA astronauts on board, in the late May timeframe.

Boeing had hoped to launch a crew this year as well - but during the December OFT mission, a major software error, coupled with communications dropouts, prevented a planned rendezvous and docking with the space station.

Boeing'd stated at its January earnings release which it put aside $410M to cover a 2nd uncrewed test flight, however it wasn't apparent until now in the event the firm would have to replicate the uncrewed test or whether it would proceed with a crewed mission.

NASA announced earlier this month that it would launch a large-scale safety review of Boeing's Starliner work, noting that there were "many cases where the quality processes of Boeing software should or should have discovered the faults".

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NASA officials held back on ordering a redo because they "didn't think it would be sufficient" to address all of the concerns raised in the safety review.

If that flight goes well, a second, operational Crew Dragon mission with four astronauts on board could be ready for takeoff by the end of July.

It will be the first human launch from Cape Canaveral, Florida since NASA's space shuttle programme ended in 2011. Meanwhile, the space agency paid Russian Federation to transport American astronauts to the space station on board the Soyuz spacecraft.

NASA selected SpaceX and Boeing to create integrated spacecraft, rockets and associated systems to carry astronauts on NASA missions in September 2014. The first test flight was considered a success in some ways, including the successful landing of the space capsule in New Mexico after two days in space. Starliner must pass its unmanned flight tests before NASA uses it to send astronauts to the ISS.

On August 3, 2018, NASA revealed the nine astronauts that will soon take to space aboard the Boeing CST-100 Starliner and SpaceX Crew Dragon, to pioneer a 'new era in American spaceflight'.

The crew flight tests will launch from the Kennedy Space Center in 2019.

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