Boeing Starliner “Hangar Queen” Crew Flight Test Delayed Again

A Boeing official said Thursday that the company was “standing down” from an attempt to launch the Starliner spacecraft on July 21 to focus on recently discovered issues with the vehicle.

The issues seem rather serious to have been discovered weeks before Starliner was due to launch on an Atlas V rocket. The first involves “soft links” in the lines that run from Starliner to its parachutes. Boeing discovered that these were not as strong as previously believed.

During a normal flight, these substandard links would not be an issue. But Starliner’s parachute system is designed to land a crew safely in case one of the three parachutes fails. However, due to the lower failure load limit with these soft links, if one parachute fails, it’s possible the lines between the spacecraft and its remaining two parachutes would snap due to the extra strain.

The second issue involves P-213 glass cloth tape that is wrapped around wiring harnesses throughout the vehicle. These cables run everywhere, and Nappi said there are hundreds of feet of these wiring harnesses. The tape is intended to protect the wiring from nicks. However, during recent tests, it was discovered that under certain circumstances possible in flight, this tape is flammable.

Boeing will spend the next few weeks diving deeper into these issues and identifying a path forward to address these and other problems. For example, [Boeing Starliner program manager Mike] Nappi also said that, as Boeing was preparing to load propellant on Starliner ahead of the July flight, it found another sticky valve. Valves have been an ongoing problem with the Starliner spacecraft.

The Commercial Crew program is being funded through a fixed-price contract. Boeing received a $4.2 billion award from NASA in 2014, but due to ongoing delays—initially, Starliner and SpaceX’s Crew Dragon were supposed to fly in 2017—Boeing has already taken cumulative charges of $900 million against its earnings. Nappi said Thursday that it is too early to say if these issues will result in additional financial charges to the program.

Since its first crewed mission in May 2020, the SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft has flown 10 crewed missions. Funding for the Crew Dragon was US$ 2.6 billion, compared to US$ 4.2 billion for Starliner.


It’s not as if NASA is in the business of making money. They are in the business of getting Congressional authorizations. So SpaceX is making them look bad, while Starliner is accomplishing the mission.


Boeing Pocketliner!


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