Boeing Starliner Flight Test Slips

Bruno is talking about the U.S. military’s Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) communications satellite, which is set for launch on Oct. 5. That would mean that Atlas V launch carrying an uncrewed Boeing CST-100 Starliner would be postponed from its current late August date until sometime after the AEHF mission.

The Starliner mission is one of two flight tests needed to qualify the spacecraft to carry NASA astronauts to the International Space Station under the agency’s commercial crew program. The second mission will carry a crew.

  • P.K. Sink

    This has become a real exciting horse race. So has Blue vs. Virgin.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yep, will the capsules reach the ISS before the ISS falls to Earth from fatigue and system failure…

  • Michael Halpern

    Lol, i am betting on Dragon

  • Michael Halpern

    Virgin’s racing?

  • 76 er

    Think he’s talking about who’s going to be the first to put a group of tourists into a suborbital flight.

  • Michael Halpern

    I know, but they are so far behind, and their design hasn’t aged well

  • 76 er

    Ouch, you got me, the sarcasm went right over my head.

  • Terry Rawnsley

    Only if you add a firm, deadline within 1 year. Personally, I’m waiting for Elon to declare that all Commercial Crew missions will be flown by BFR – just as soon as he builds and certifies it.

  • Michael Halpern

    Not likely cert will take a while, as will modifying 39a should they be picky about that,
    Dragon will beat Starliner

  • envy

    You could say the same about Blue. Neither is the fastest company around.

    SpaceX and Boeing could easily put crew to orbit before either Blue or Virgin puts crew past 100 km in suborbit.

  • envy

    ISS planning documents show November or December as likely dates for the uncrewed demos.

  • Terry Rawnsley

    Tongue was planted firmly in cheek for that one. Like everybody else, I am getting sick of the schedule slippage by both SX and Boeing. Cost-plus is a very flawed way of letting contracts but fixed price contracts aren’t much better when they do not contain liquidated damages clauses for delayed performance. If the cost of buying more Soyuz seats were taxed to Boeing and SpaceX, they might have incentive to put more of their own investors’ money into testing and readying their vehicles for on-time launch.

  • Michael Halpern

    Not never, just they won’t be useful against Earth targets

  • Michael Halpern

    A lot of delays have to do with being underfunded

  • P.K. Sink
  • Michael Halpern

    No but Blue has at least been to space, and doesn’t have to replace their rocket motors

  • Terry Rawnsley

    That is a very common belief on the right side of the aisle. Never the company’s fault. Always the government’s fault. Private enterprise never fails. Of course, that fact that NASA hasn’t missed any payments (or made late ones) points more to SpaceX’s lack of experience and Boeing’s “care less” attitude. The law doesn’t favor “penalty clauses” in contracts but “liquidated damages” clauses are quite legal. I would hope the government would be less generous and forgiving the next time they make a contract governing a “public-private” partnership.

  • Michael Halpern

    No this is fact for 5 years CCD received half of what was requested in the budget
    The companies want to go faster because that means they start making money sooner, it costs them money because they part fund it so they need it to become a product or its a red item on their budget

  • Terry Rawnsley

    Then why didn’t they? Technological challenges do not yield easily or quickly just because you dump more money into solving them. Both companies have faced technological challenges that have slowed progress. If you want to blame the government, go ahead. I won’t change your mind. The companies themselves share responsibility for their slowing pace of development. You won’t convince me differently either.

  • Michael Halpern

    because they only had so much money and a lot is also NASA approval process which also needs money

  • ThomasLMatula

    Given it’s size and its mass I wonder if the BFR will be able to safely dock to the ISS. It is much larger than the Shuttle. More likely it will need to co-orbit and use a small shuttle to transfer cargo/crew to it.

  • Lee

    IF NASA had paid for the ENTIRE development cost of Dragon/Dragon 2, then your objections would be valid. However, that is not the case. NASA only paid for a portion of the development costs for each spacecraft. Thus, SpaceX (and Boeing) are free to take their own sweet time in getting the systems complete, since they have to use their own $$$ (and quite a bit of their own $$$) to complete the spacecraft.

    In addition, you’re applying a double-standard here. In your mind, SpaceX and Boeing aren’t allowed any schedule slips. However, apparently in your mind, NASA and its contractors can take as long as they damn well please, and as much taxpayer money as they want, to get SLS/Orion up and running. Really?

  • Terry Rawnsley

    Hopefully it will fly in time to find out.

  • Terry Rawnsley

    I agree that go fever kills astronauts and it should definitely be avoided. Still, the delays are costly and it seems that every time we get close to a scheduled milestone, both companies push it back by 6 months. Soyuz seats are available and that is a good thing but they have to be paid for and part of that cost should be coming out of the profits of both companies because they are the ones not delivering product. Even if we agreed that both the government and the companies shared responsibility for the slippages, the cost of “cover” (to use a contract law term) would have to be shared by the parties on a pro rata basis.

  • Michael Halpern

    Soyuz seats have already been paid for

  • Terry Rawnsley

    I’m not applying a double standard at all. SLS/Orion and it’s snail’s pace development was not part of the conversation. Building a rocket based on shuttle-legacy parts and technology to fly unplanned missions at astronomical costs is something only Congress would dream up. It would have been cheaper to resurrect Saturn V.

    Whether SpaceX and Boeing are making best efforts at this point is debatable to say the least. NASA does not legally have to fund the entire project for either company to demand on-time performance. It depends on how the contracts are written and I’m not privy to the language of the contracts. Since there has been no official outcry over schedule slips, I will concede that there is probably no legal basis for action against either company. As for “taking their sweet time,” that’s not a smart thing to do if you want future business. Take a look around and see who has the money to fly people into space. It isn’t the private sector. Unless you can make flying people into orbit no more costly than a flight from New York to Sydney, your customer base will be very limited.

  • Michael Halpern

    Space is hard.

  • Terry Rawnsley

    For how long? I know that Boeing was awarded 3 seats (I think) as part of a court settlement.

  • Terry Rawnsley

    Blue has its own agenda and could seemingly care less what Virgin does. Unless suborbital space joyrides turn out to be unforeseeably successful, I’d bet that New Shepard goes away about the time that New Glenn flies.

  • Terry Rawnsley

    Yes, it is and opening a private business is hard. You have to be willing to succeed or fail in the private market. I fear that both Dragon 2 and Starliner were meant to service a market which may never materialize.

  • Michael Halpern

    Normal mission length will get us to mid 2019 extended missions will almost get us to 2020

  • ThomasLMatula

    Recall it not just about money, it’s about requirement creep as well. NASA didn’t like the idea of Dragon2 landing on terra firms so SpaceX had to switch gears for a water recovery. Then NASA decides it wants them to demonstrate a 1 in 270 failure rate, far exceeding anything NASA ever achieved or the Soyuz. Then the issue over fueling before or after astronauts are loaded. Each of the “points” by NASA add to the delay.

    And of course the Falcon 9 has been evolving as is normal with systems in the commercial world. The final version, the Block 5 is just now entering service. NASA has no trouble sending it’s astronauts on the second SLS, the very first version with the brand new more powerful upper stage. But the commercial firms, they need to show seven successful launches first.

    I am sure there are probably other “hoops” they have been making the commercial firms deal with, not of which apply to NASA systems, but which NASA wants to apply to them, which require changes and delays.

  • ThomasLMatula

    Yes, New Sheppard is just a test craft. If they gain operational experience flying SER and tourists fine. If not, they could care less. They have bigger goals. But SS2 is basically the end of the line for that design even if it enters service. VG will have to move beyond Mojave to get an orbital system.

  • Dave Salt

    LauncherOne?

  • ThomasLMatula

    But will it be able to compete against the Block 5 Falcon 9? And as with all air launched system it is very limited in payload.

  • Dave Salt

    Well, an expendable system based upon a 747 could launch maybe ~20t into LEO…
    https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20140003206.pdf
    https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20130000446.pdf
    https://ntrs.nasa.gov/archive/nasa/casi.ntrs.nasa.gov/20120000791.pdf
    …while StratoLaunch could probably put ~10t into LEO with a fully reusable system, so I think there’s scope for something ‘complementary’ to F9 and BFL, especially if it could support daily flights.

  • Terry Rawnsley

    I remember watching Musk’s Dragon 2 unveiling and at that time he stated that initially Dragon would land in the water but would later have propulsive landing capabilities. As for the other “hoops,” I will concede your point. Still, SX may have had too many developmental irons in the fire at once. Maybe less emphasis on Starlink and BFR or even Falcon Heavy would have resulted in faster progress on the Dragon 2 – F9 system. It’s Elon’s company and he can run it as he wishes and in accordance with his vision.

    As for Boeing, I think this is basically just another government contract for them and perhaps an asset for later sale if private, commercial, manned space ever really takes off (no pun intended,)

  • Paul451

    SX may have had too many developmental irons in the fire at once

    No. If the issue was an internal SpaceX one, Boeing would have gotten far ahead. Instead, both companies have slipped in sync, which means the major issue is outside of either company’s control.

  • Michael Halpern

    And Boeing is a little behind SpaceX,