Skip to main content

Boeing’s first crewed flight to the space station gets an extension — and a delay

Boeing’s first crewed flight to the space station gets an extension — and a delay


Starliner’s first flight is now scheduled for August

Share this story

An artistic rendering of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft
An artistic rendering of Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft
Image: Boeing

The first crewed test flight of Boeing’s new Starliner spacecraft will no longer be a quick trip to the International Space Station, but will last for months — just like a full-fledged mission. But don’t expect it to happen for a while. NASA announced today that the company is now targeting August for Starliner’s first uncrewed flight test, with the longer crewed flight happening sometime in late 2019.

The new target dates, which have already been reported, represent a significant delay for Boeing as the company readies the Starliner for flight. The Starliner is one of two vehicles being developed for NASA’s Commercial Crew program, to transport the space agency’s astronauts to and from the International Space Station.

Originally, Boeing’s first crewed test flight was set to be a short trip to the station, but NASA decided to extend the mission to give the agency more options. NASA has seats booked on Russia’s Soyuz rocket that will allow astronauts to remain on the space station through the end of the year, and the agency has considered buying more just in case the Commercial Crew vehicles are not fully ready in time. A longer crewed flight test will mean that NASA can keep astronauts on the station for much longer, ensuring that the ISS stays fully occupied with NASA astronauts and their international partners.

“NASA’s assessment of extending the mission was found to be technically achievable without compromising the safety of the crew.”

“NASA’s assessment of extending the mission was found to be technically achievable without compromising the safety of the crew,” Phil McAlister, director of the commercial spaceflight division at NASA, said in a statement. “Commercial crew flight tests, along with the additional Soyuz opportunities, help us transition with greater flexibility to our next-generation commercial systems under the Commercial Crew Program.”  

The exact length of the extended flight hasn’t been set yet. And NASA doesn’t know exactly when it will be either, as Boeing needs to get its uncrewed test flight off the ground first. The Starliner that will be used for the test is almost ready, according to NASA, but Boeing will use the extra time to do additional testing. Ultimately, NASA is blaming the delay to August on “limited launch opportunities” in the upcoming months — the company tasked with launching the Starliner, the United Launch Alliance, has to fly a big mission for the Air Force in June, which NASA says is influencing the schedule.

Starliner development has suffered from a few setbacks, most notably an engine test failure in June of 2018. Nearly a year after the incident, the company will soon re-start that engine testing at NASA’s White Sands Test Facility in New Mexico. These engines are crucial parts of the Starliner’s emergency abort system, which can carry the vehicle to safety if there is a major problem during a flight. Eventually, Boeing must demonstrate this capability during a test before either of the two test flights can launch. However, a date for that hasn’t been set either.

All of this means that NASA’s other Commercial Crew partner, SpaceX, is poised to send crews to the International Space Station well before Boeing. SpaceX completed its first uncrewed flight of its passenger vehicle, the Crew Dragon, in March. The test appeared to go flawlessly, with the Crew Dragon successfully demonstrating that it could automatically dock with the International Space Station and then safely land in the ocean using parachutes. SpaceX now needs to do a test of its emergency escape system during a flight, followed by a crewed test.

“SpaceX is on track for a test of Crew Dragon’s in-flight abort capabilities in June and hardware readiness for Crew Dragon’s second demonstration mission to the Space Station in July,” a SpaceX spokesperson said in a statement.

Today’s Storystream

Feed refreshed 16 minutes ago Midjourneys

External Link
Russell Brandom16 minutes ago
Oracle will pay $23 million to settle foreign bribery charges.

The SEC alleges that Oracle used a slush fund to bribe officials in India, Turkey and the United Arab Emirates. This behavior is sadly common among software companies doing business overseas, and it’s not unique to Oracle. In March, a former Microsoft executive claimed the company spent as much as $200 million a year in bribes for foreign officials.

External Link
Emma RothTwo hours ago
Celsius’ CEO is out.

Alex Mashinsky, the head of the bankrupt crypto lending firm Celsius, announced his resignation today, but not after patting himself on the back for working “tirelessly to help the company.”

In Mashinsky’s eyes, I guess that means designing “Unbankrupt yourself” t-shirts on Cafepress and then selling them to a user base that just had their funds vaporized.

At least customers of the embattled Voyager Digital crypto firm are in slightly better shape, as the Sam Bankman-Fried-owned FTX just bought out the company’s assets.

Mary Beth Griggs2:46 PM UTC
NASA’s SLS rocket is secure as Hurricane Ian barrels towards Florida.

The rocket — and the Orion spacecraft on top — are now back inside the massive Vehicle Assembly Building. Facing menacing forecasts, NASA decided to roll it away from the launchpad yesterday.

External Link
Andrew J. Hawkins1:30 PM UTC
Harley-Davidson’s electric motorcycle brand is about to go public via SPAC

LiveWire has completed its merger with a blank-check company and will make its debut on the New York Stock Exchange today. Harley-Davison CEO Jochen Zeitz called it “a proud and exciting milestone for LiveWire towards its ambition to become the most desirable electric motorcycle brand in the world.” Hopefully it also manages to avoid the cash crunch of other EV SPACs, like Canoo, Arrival, Faraday Future, and Lordstown.

The Verge
Andrew Webster1:06 PM UTC
“There’s an endless array of drama going on surrounding Twitch right now.”

That’s Ryan Morrison, CEO of Evolved Talent Agency, which represents some of the biggest streamers around. And he’s right — as you can read in this investigation from my colleague Ash Parrish, who looked into just what’s going on with Amazon’s livestreaming service.

The Verge
Richard Lawler12:59 PM UTC
Green light.

NASA’s spacecraft crashed, and everyone is very happy about it.

Otherwise, Mitchell Clark is kicking off the day with a deeper look at Dish Network’s definitely-real 5G wireless service , and Walmart’s metaverse vision in Roblox is not looking good at all.

External Link
Jess Weatherbed11:49 AM UTC
Won’t anyone think of the billionaires?

Forbes reports that rising inflation and falling stock prices have collectively cost members of the Forbes 400 US rich list $500 billion in 2022 with tech tycoons suffering the biggest losses.

Jeff Bezos (worth $151 billion) lost $50 billion, Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin (worth a collective $182b) lost almost $60b, Mark Zuckerberg (worth $57.7b) lost $76.8b, and Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey (worth $4.5b) lost $10.4b. Former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer (worth $83b) lost $13.5b while his ex-boss Bill Gates (worth $106b) lost $28b, albeit $20b of that via charity donations.

Thomas Ricker6:45 AM UTC
Check out this delightful DART Easter egg.

Just Google for “NASA DART.” You’re welcome.