Boeing’s First Starliner Mission Taking Astronauts In Space Could Be In Early 2023

Boeing Co. is aiming to launch its first Starliner mission to the International Space Station in February 2023, according to statements made on Thursday by Boeing and NASA officials as the aerospace company approaches the end of a pricey and protracted development process.

A similar test flight in 2019 was cut short by software issues, so Starliner’s first crewed flight would take place nearly a year later in March, when the spacecraft successfully completed a crucial demonstration mission for NASA on its second attempt.

After engineers address problems discovered during Starliner’s test flight in March, including a few onboard thruster failures during the spacecraft’s ascent to orbit that the company’s Starliner boss, Mark Nappi, attributed to debris, Boeing and NASA expect to fly the crewed mission.

“Currently we’re targeting a launch date as early as February of 2023,” Steve Stich, head of the NASA program that oversees Starliner’s development, told reporters in a joint news conference with Boeing.

After NASA approves Boeing’s solutions to the thruster problems, the crewed Starliner capsule is anticipated to dock with its Atlas 5 rocket in November, according to Nappi. Boeing and Lockheed Martin formed a joint venture to create the Atlas 5 launch vehicle.

The eight-day mission, which will carry Barry Wilmore and Sunita Williams from Earth to the space station and back, will be the last test flight before NASA approves Starliner for regular astronaut missions.

Once approved, the spacecraft would replace SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft, which received approval in 2020, as NASA’s secondary means of transporting astronauts to and from the space station.

NASA has awarded Boeing a $4.5 billion fixed-price contract for the development of the Starliner and six routine missions following the spacecraft’s certification.

Boeing reported in July that the March test flight of Starliner cost the company $93 million in launch schedule adjustments and engineering fixes, totalling $688 million since the spacecraft’s 2019 test failures.

(Adapted from GadgetsNow.com)

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