Boeing’s Starliner Cleared for Human Flight—But Has It Missed Its Moment?

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The Boeing CST-100 Starliner has had a number of problems with its launch.

In early May, just two hours before the scheduled launch with two astronauts, the Atlas V’s stage 2 had a malfunctioning helium valve. The leak caused a further delay in the launch of the crewed rocket. NASA decided to tolerate the leak.

A computer problem with the sequencer for ground support caused a failure to launch on June 1. Launch date changed to June 5,

Starliner astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams were relieved when the rocket launched. Despite some thruster problems and helium leaks, the Starliner docked to the ISS a few days after launch.

Boeing has provided space hardware since Apollo. SpaceX was initially viewed as a young, unreliable company.

Boeing, according to former NASA administrators Charles Bolden and Lori Garver, is a major participant in the Commercial Crew Program.

SpaceX Crew Dragon continues to make regular trips to the International Space Station 10 years after its first launch. Boeing Starliner has conducted commercial spaceflights and is currently playing catch-up following two failed uncrewed test flights.

Why did Boeing falter on its first launch while SpaceX took flight?

Eric Berger is an Ars Technica writer who wrote a detailed article explaining the results of commercial space racing. SpaceX on the other hand is a small, agile company that can make and implement decisions rapidly. Boeing is a large, bureaucratic company. It has never entered into a contract with prepaid costs that are not paid by the United States Government.

Elon Musk’s X comments were brutal, but succinct. SpaceX finished the project four years before Boeing despite receiving $4.2 billion to develop an astronaut capsule. Dragon 2 is a completely different crew capsule than Dragon 1. Boeing also has too many positions in non-technical managerial roles. ”

After the flight has been completed successfully, what happens? Well, of course fixing all the bugs.

Boeing Starliner is only contracted to fly six crewed missions to the International Space Station compared with SpaceX Crew Dragon’s fourteen flights. Boeing needs to sell commercial flights to recoup its investment in the Starliner.

Laura Forczyk, the owner of Astralytica as well as author of many books about space, is a businesswoman. She is not sure.

Is it time to cancel Starliner as previously suggested? The old saying goes, “If you spend a dollar, you get a pound.” NASA’s plan to have two options for astronauts to enter and exit low Earth orbit is sensible. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon may be a fantastic product, but having a monopoly on a particular technology or service is never a good idea.

NASA must work with Boeing to find a solution for Starliner, if no alternative is available. For example, a crewed Sierra Space Dream Chaser. Atlas V is soon to be retired. Starliner can be launched using the Vulcan Centaur rocket.

Boeing will be a part Blue Origin’s Orbital Reef space station. Starliner and a crew version of Dream Chaser will transport crews to the facility. This is an excellent start for commercial missions.

Boeing has a lot of work to do before its crewed rockets become a profit maker, instead of a money pit.