Boeing employees work on the company’s Starliner capsule on Jan. 19, 2023, in preparation for the first crewed flight.
John Grant / Boeing
Boeing is further delaying the first crewed launch of its Starliner spacecraft after discovering additional problems with the capsule, the company said along with NASA on Thursday.
The Starliner crew flight test was last scheduled for July 21 and was supposed to carry a pair of NASA astronauts to the International Space Station. Boeing discovered two new problems with the Starliner: one affecting the safety of its parachute systems and another involving a specific tape that was found to be flammable.
“We have decided to suspend preparations for the CFT mission to correct these issues,” Boeing vice president and Starliner manager Mark Nappi said during a news conference.
Nappi noted that the discussion about delaying the launch went to “the highest levels of Boeing,” with CEO Dave Calhoun involved.
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The delay is the latest in a series of disruptions to the Starliner’s first crewed flight. The July schedule was itself a delay from the previous April target. A new flight target is expected, NASA and Boeing said Thursday.
The company is developing its Starliner spacecraft under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, having won nearly $5 billion in contracts to build the capsule. Boeing’s program competes with Elon Musk’s SpaceX, which is poised to complete all six of its originally contracted NASA missions before Boeing takes off for the first time.
Boeing was once considered an equal with SpaceX in the race to launch NASA astronauts, but has fallen behind due to development setbacks.
As a result of these delays and the fixed-cost nature of its contract with NASA, Boeing has accumulated $833 million in losses over two years on the Starliner program.
Nappi on Thursday stressed that Boeing is “still committed” to completing work on the capsule and flying it for NASA.