The Boeing Starliner capsule that will fly the company’s Crew Flight Test mission to the International Space
Station is shown at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in April 2023. (Image credit: Boeing/John Grant)

The long-delayed first crewed mission of Boeing’s new Starliner capsule has been pushed back again.

That mission to the International Space Station (ISS), called Crew Flight Test (CFT), had been tentatively scheduled to launch in mid-April. But that’s no longer the plan, NASA and Boeing announced on Friday (March 8).

CFT is “currently scheduled to launch [in] early May due to space station scheduling,” agency officials wrote in an update on Friday afternoon.

CFT will lift off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Florida’s Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. It will send Starliner, and NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, to the ISS for a roughly 10-day stay.

The test flight had been scheduled to launch last July. However, technical issues —chiefly, a problem with the suspension lines on Starliner’s main parachutes and the fact that much of the capsule’s wiring was wrapped with flammable tape — pushed the liftoff to this spring.  

Those problems are under control, NASA said in an update in late January, which stressed that CFT was still on track for a mid-April launch. But ISS traffic issues can alter schedules as well, as Friday’s news attests.

Boeing has been developing Starliner under a multibillion-dollar contract the company signed with NASA in September 2014. The capsule has launched on two uncrewed test flights to date, both of which targeted the ISS. 

Starliner suffered several problems on the first mission, which flew in December 2019, and failed to meet up with the orbiting lab as planned. The capsule succeeded on its second try, which lifted off in May 2022.

NASA also awarded SpaceX a commercial crew contract in September 2014. Elon Musk’s company has now launched eight operational astronaut missions to the ISS for NASA, the most recent of which, called Crew-8, lifted off on Sunday (March 3).

[09 Mar 2024] NASA, Boeing delay Starliner capsule’s 1st astronaut launch to early May
Tagged on: