Starliner launch had been targeted to February for the test flight, but another delay has occurred with Boeing's first manned flight for NASA.
Two months later than originally planned, the aerospace giant now intends to launch the first crewed mission of its Starliner capsule, a two-astronaut test flight to the International Space Station (ISS), no sooner than April 2023.
NASA officials updated on Thursday that "the date modification deconflicts visitor spacecraft traffic at the space station as NASA and Boeing work cooperatively to achieve flight readiness" (Nov. 3).
Previously, Boeing planned to launch Crew Flight Test, its first crewed trip, in December 2022. (CFT). However, that goal was postponed until February 2023 in late August to give more time to address problems discovered during the capsule's initial mission to the ISS.
Unmanned Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT-2) was that mission, which took place in May. It was Starliner's second attempt at an unmanned test flight to the ISS, as the name implies. Starliner encountered numerous technical issues and was locked in the incorrect orbit for a rendezvous with the orbiting lab during the initial attempt, which took place in December 2019.
OFT-2 was a success, but there were some bumps in the road. Before the launch of CFT, Starliner experienced a few small anomalies, such as issues with a few of its thrusters, which NASA and Boeing are presently investigating.
"Starliner and United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket hardware remain on track for readiness in early 2023," NASA officials wrote in the update. "The joint team continues to close out the OFT-2 anomalies and partner closely together to identify forward work and ensure all requirements for crewed flight are met."
NASA astronauts Barry "Butch" Wilmore and Suni Williams are the CFT crew members. The mission is expected to last about two weeks — more than twice as long as the six-day OFT-2. If the upcoming flight goes smoothly, Starliner will probably be approved for use in operational missions, which Boeing will begin carrying out in accordance with a contract it signed with NASA in 2014.
With its Falcon 9 rocket and Dragon capsule, SpaceX is already conducting operational crewed missions to the ISS under a similar NASA agreement. On October 5, Elon Musk's business launched the Crew-5 mission, the fifth of those contracted trips.
The next one, Crew-6, is scheduled to launch in the middle of February 2023 according to SpaceX and NASA. This takeoff appears to be a contributing factor in the ISS traffic issue that the CFT launch slip will help to address.