Boeing's Starliner Program Faces Further Delay, Manned Flight Now Targeted for March

Boeing's Starliner Program Faces Further Delay, Manned Flight Now Targeted for March

Boeing's ambitious Starliner program has encountered yet another setback. The highly anticipated inaugural crewed flight of the "astronaut taxi," originally slated for July 21, faced indefinite postponement in early June due to newly identified issues with the spacecraft's wiring and parachute system. While NASA initially aimed to reschedule the launch for autumn, the timeline has now been extended, with the next target launch window set for March.

Investigations revealed a critical concern with the parachute links, which exhibited a load limit below the intended threshold. This discovery raised the potential for failure if the spacecraft relied on only two out of its three parachutes during descent. Additionally, the Starliner's wiring configuration raised alarms, as extensive lengths of flammable anti-chafe tape were found along the wiring pathways. In response, Boeing opted to encapsulate the questionable wiring rather than attempting to remove the protective material.

During a recent press conference, Mark Nappi, Vice President and Program Manager of the Starliner project, addressed the situation, stating, "Based on the current plans, we're projecting that the spacecraft will be prepared for launch in early March." However, uncertainties surround this projection, given the need for coordinated efforts between Boeing, NASA, and the United Launch Alliance. Nappi acknowledged that finalizing a concrete launch date requires ongoing collaboration in the coming weeks.

The Starliner program has experienced a mixed track record thus far, with two flights attempted across three endeavors. A launch attempt in August 2022 was unsuccessful, while a flight in December 2019 fell short of reaching the International Space Station. Notably, an unmanned Starliner successfully docked with the ISS in May 2022. Despite the challenges, Boeing remains committed to resolving the issues and ensuring the safe and successful launch of the Starliner spacecraft.
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