This, however, did not materialize.
Meanwhile, Boeing is still trying to pass an uncrewed test flight. The company will make its second attempt this week, hoping a flawless performance will mend its image as a fallen star of manned spaceflight.
Here’s a look back at Starliner’s tough past.
In 2014, NASA awarded fixed-price contracts — meaning the space agency would only pay the initial agreed price and not a penny more — to Boeing and SpaceX. The move cemented their niches as companies that would return NASA astronauts to space under the Commercial Crew program. Boeing’s awards totaled $4.2 billion, a significant markup over SpaceX’s $2.6 billion, although the company said that was because SpaceX had already received millions for development of an unmanned version of his Dragon vehicle.
Although both spacecraft were to send astronauts into space a few years later, as the end of the decade approached, it became clear that SpaceX was ahead of Boeing.
And almost immediately after Starliner launched on December 20, 2019, it was clear something was wrong.
Later, it was revealed that Starliner’s internal clock was off by 11 hours, causing the spacecraft to misfire and deflect, NASA and Boeing officials told reporters. Starliner was forced to make an early return to Earth.
Boeing agreed to fix the issues and pay for a second uncrewed test flight attempt, setting aside nearly half a billion dollars. Months of troubleshooting, safety reviews and investigations followed the test flight.
Former astronaut withdraws from mission
Former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson, who left the government astronaut corps in 2011 to help Boeing design and build the Starliner, was to command Starliner’s first crewed mission as a private astronaut. But after his maiden flight test failed, Ferguson announced he could no longer fly the vehicle, citing scheduling conflicts.
Although the crewed mission has been postponed several times, there do not appear to be any plans to send Ferguson back to the mission.
Florida sticky valves and humidity
Boeing thought it was ready to put Starliner through its paces again last year, and it scheduled a second orbital flight test attempt – this one dubbed OFT-2 – for August.
Other problems quickly appeared. When the spacecraft rolled out to its launch pad and began undergoing pre-flight ground checks, engineers discovered that key Starliner valves were sticking. Eventually, Boeing announced that the problem could not be fixed on the launch pad and that the entire vehicle had to be taken back to the assembly building for further troubleshooting.
At press conferences ahead of Thursday’s test fight, Boeing officials revealed they will be flying OFT-2 this week with a “short-term” fix in place, but the company may ultimately choose to redesign the system. of valves.
Boeing confirmed in a statement that a lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the employee and the contractor. “The matter has been settled by all parties; the terms of the settlement are confidential,” the statement said.
Court documents confirm the case was settled in December 2021.