Boeing is trying to catch up with SpaceX after too much drama

However, it did not come to fruition.

Errors, delays, and failures hampered the spacecraft’s development process. There has been a failed test flight, software issues, sticky valves, and a lawsuit involving a subcontractor executive who is said to have had lost his leg During the Starliner test.
After initially giving SpaceX a closer scrutiny than Boeing, Officials later said they regretted it That many Starliner problems slipped through the loopholes. SpaceX, Elon Musk’s relative newcomer to spaceflight, eventually beat Boeing on the launch pad. The company’s Crew Dragon spacecraft has now registered six astronaut launches for NASA since entering service in 2020.

Meanwhile, Boeing is still trying to pass an uncrewed test flight. The company will make its second attempt this week, hoping that the flawless performance will repair its image as a falling star in human spaceflight.

The controversies surrounding Starliner also added to other matters Problems within Boeing’s commercial aircraft division That undermined the company’s previous solid image over the past several years.

Here’s a look back at Starliner’s past attempts.

OFT-1

In 2014, NASA awarded fixed-price contracts — meaning the space agency would only pay the agreed initial price and not a penny more — to Boeing and SpaceX. The move cemented its openings as companies that will return NASA astronauts to space under the Commercial Crew program. Boeing’s prize pool totaled $4.2 billion, a significant amount compared to SpaceX’s $2.6 billion, though the company said that because SpaceX has already received millions to develop an unmanned version of the Dragon craft.

Although both spacecraft were expected to blast astronauts into space after only a few years, toward the end of the decade, it became clear that SpaceX was outselling Boeing.

When the company’s first unmanned orbital flight test, dubbed OFT-1, arrived at the launch pad in December 2019, SpaceX He already beat him for six months.

And almost immediately after the launch of the Starliner on December 20, 2019, it was clear that something was wrong.

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Later, it was revealed that the Starliner’s internal clock had been off for 11 hours, causing the spacecraft to misfire and stumble, NASA and Boeing officials told reporters. Starliner was forced to return early to Earth.

Months later, a second serious software problem was revealed, which a government safety official said had caused a “disastrous failure”. Boeing (Bachelor of) He was able to identify and correct the error before it affected Starliner’s behavior.

Boeing agreed to solve the problems and pay for the second attempt of the unmanned test flight, putting aside nearly half a billion dollars. After months of troubleshooting, safety reviews and investigations, the test flight.

Ex-astronaut withdraws from mission

Former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson, who left the State Astronaut Corps in 2011 to help Boeing design and build the Starliner, was scheduled to lead the Starliner’s first manned mission as a private astronaut. But after the inaugural flight test failed, Ferguson announced he could no longer fly the craft, citing scheduling conflicts.

NASA and Boeing announce this In late 2020, saying Ferguson The decision was made for “personal reasons”. Ferguson said in Tweet follow That he planned to prioritize his family, he had “made many commitments that I simply cannot risk losing”.

Although the manned mission has been rescheduled several times, there do not appear to be plans to bring Ferguson back into the mission.

It was NASA astronaut, Barry “Butch” Wilmore hiring to take Ferguson’s place.

Viscous valves and FL moisture

Boeing thought it was ready to return the Starliner to testing last year, and has scheduled a second attempt at orbital flight testing – this one dubbed OFT-2 – for August.

The United Launch Alliance's Atlas V rocket with the Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft aboard is seen after its exit from the vertical integration facility to the launch pad at Space Launch Complex 41 prior to the Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT-2) mission, Wednesday, May 18, 2022 at the launch station. Cape Canaveral Space Force in Florida.

More problems arose quickly. When the spacecraft was moved to its launch pad and began conducting pre-flight ground checks, engineers discovered that the main valves on the Starliner were sticking. Ultimately, Boeing announced that the problem could not be fixed on the launch pad, and the entire vehicle had to be returned to the assembly building for further troubleshooting.

By mid-August, Boeing had given up trying to fix the problems at the site. Starliner had to be Sent to the Boeing factory.

In press conferences leading up to the test battle Thursday, Boeing officials revealed that they will fly OFT-2 this week with a “short-term” overhaul in place, but that the company may eventually choose to redesign the fuse system.

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Other cases

Adding to the questions surrounding Boeing’s safety practices as Starliner returns to the launch pad this week is a recent report from Reuterswhich highlighted a previously overlooked lawsuit against Boeing last year by a subcontractor who was said to have had his leg partially amputated after an accident prior to testing of the 2017 Starliner parachute.

Boeing confirmed in a statement that a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the employee and the subcontractor. “The matter has been settled by all parties, and the terms of the settlement are confidential,” the statement said.

Court documents confirm that the matter was settled in December 2021.

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