NASA and Boeing are now targeting early 2023 for the first long-delayed Boeing crewed flight starliner The spacecraft, officials said during a joint news conference Thursday.
Launch officials say the mission could launch as early as February, according to Steve Stitch, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Manager.
The Starliner is set to get the astronauts off Earth by the end of 2022. But work has continued on several key issues that were identified in the Starliner unmanned test flight in May Push the schedule back.
Starliner is already years behind schedule. It is intended to serve the same purpose as SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, which was astronaut transport To and from the International Space Station since May 2020.
Problems that officials identified during the Starliner’s unmanned test flight included outages with a few of the spacecraft’s thrusters that did not operate as intended and software problems. None of these issues had a significant impact on the test mission, however, and the craft was still able to complete its multi-day journey to the International Space Station and return safely to Earth. However, officials deemed these problems serious enough to require repairs before the crew was allowed to board the vehicle.
Notably, the first attempt to send Starliner An orbital test was conducted in late 2019 The road had to be blocked – returning the car directly to Earth rather than docking to the International Space Station – after software problems derailed the car. It took nearly two years of troubleshooting before the Starliner was ready to return to the launch pad. Then a problem with the sticky valves delayed the capsule’s return to flight.
Despite its setbacks, NASA has sided with Boeing, which is one of two companies — the other being SpaceX — that the space agency tapped to build spacecraft worthy of astronauts after the space shuttle program was retired in 2011. While the space agency initially speculated that Boeing would , a partner of decades with NASA that will beat SpaceX on the launch pad, Boeing is now at least two years behind its relatively nascent rival.
But NASA wants at least two spacecraft capable of transporting astronauts to the International Space Station and back with the hope that if any vehicle encounters a problem that will keep it on Earth, there is always a backup transport option. But it should be noted that NASA can also rely on Russian-made Soyuz spacecraft to deliver astronauts to the International Space Station and return them. The two countries have ridesharing agreements that allows Russian astronauts and NASA to share seats on US or Russian vehicles, and that partnership has continued despite heightened geopolitical tensions.
NASA astronauts Barry ‘Butch’ Wilmore and Sunita Williams are set to be the first astronauts to fly aboard the Starliner next year.
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