In April, NASA and Boeing Collaborate to Launch Astronauts Aboard the Starliner Spacecraft

NASA

NASA : After numerous delays, NASA announced on Wednesday its plans to launch two astronauts to the International Space Station aboard a Boeing Starliner spacecraft, tentatively scheduled for mid-April.

The space agency highlighted significant progress in addressing technical issues identified during the spacecraft’s flight certification process. A successful drop test earlier this month marked a crucial milestone for the Starliner. The joint NASA and Boeing teams are currently in the final stages of analyzing data to complete the overall system certification, paving the way for its inaugural crewed flight.

In 2014, NASA selected Boeing and SpaceX to develop crew transport systems for carrying astronauts into space, awarding Boeing a $4.2 billion contract and SpaceX a $2.6 billion contract. While Elon Musk-led SpaceX successfully completed its first crewed flight in 2020 and has conducted numerous crewed and cargo flights since, Boeing has undergone only two uncrewed flight tests of the Starliner.

Addressing safety concerns, Boeing recently completed the removal of over seven kilograms of P213 tape, identified as a potential fire risk in specific conditions. In areas where removing the tape might lead to other hardware issues, the company opted for an overwrap with a different non-flammable, chafe-resistant tape and installed fire breaks on wire harnesses.

Concurrently, major integrated flight operations exercises are in progress, with mission support teams having recently completed a two-day undocking-to-landing mission dress rehearsal at the White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. These developments signify crucial steps toward the anticipated mid-April launch, bringing NASA and Boeing closer to realizing the Starliner’s role in crewed space missions.