Boeing’s Starliner program, which has faced numerous setbacks and over $1 billion in losses, is expected to finally be ready to launch crews to the International Space Station (ISS) by early 2024. The program suffered another setback when the launch date for the crewed test flight, originally set for July 21, was delayed indefinitely due to safety concerns. However, Boeing now claims to have resolved two major safety hazards on the Starliner capsule.
The first safety issue involved the load capacity of the parachutes used for landing. Boeing has redesigned the parachutes to ensure a safe landing for the crew. The second issue involved the use of flammable tape to insulate wiring harnesses inside the capsule, which has since been removed to enhance safety.
Despite these challenges, Boeing still needs to take into consideration the space station’s schedule and the availability of the Atlas V rocket before deciding on a new launch date. However, NASA remains committed to having Boeing as a second commercial partner for launching astronauts to the ISS.
Under a $4.3 billion contract with NASA for crew transportation to the ISS, Boeing has already suffered significant financial losses. The company recently announced additional losses of $257 million, bringing the total losses to an astounding $1.14 billion. This further emphasizes the importance of the upcoming Starliner crewed test flight, as it is crucial for certifying the spacecraft for regular crewed flights to the ISS.
Boeing is now on a tight deadline to ensure the successful launch of enough crewed capsules to the ISS before its anticipated retirement in 2030. Despite the setbacks faced by the Starliner program, both Boeing and NASA are working together to overcome the challenges and bring crewed spaceflights back on track.
As the launch date for the crewed test flight remains uncertain, the coming months will be critical for Boeing and its Starliner program. All eyes are on the aerospace giant to see if it can successfully resolve the remaining issues and regain confidence in its ability to transport astronauts to the ISS.
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