Boeing Can't Seem to Stop Delaying Its First Astronaut Launch

Better Late

The first crewed test launch of Boeing's troubled Starliner spacecraft has been delayed yet again.

This time, however, it's seemingly not about the aerospace giant's massive technical difficulties in getting its astronaut shuttle off the ground — with or without a crew on board.

"Following a review of the International Space Station operations, NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test now is targeting no earlier than Monday, May 6, for Starliner’s first launch with astronauts to the orbital complex," reads an official NASA update. "The date adjustment optimizes space station schedule of activities planned toward the end of April, including a cargo spacecraft undocking and a crew spacecraft port relocation required for Starliner docking."

Seven Year Glitch

The news comes after many years of delays, technical hiccups, failed launches, and a budget overrun of $1.5 billion as of last year.

The spacecraft, which has been developed under the same NASA Commercial Crew Program as SpaceX's far more successful Crew Dragon since 2014, has suffered computer glitches, malfunctioning parachutes, and even parts popping off on the launch pad. And in the background, of course, there's the endless drama surrounding Boeing's commercial airliners.

The company's first Crew Flight Test (CFT), which is now slated for no earlier than May 6, was originally meant to launch in 2017 — around seven years ago.

Most recently, engineers have been redesigning components of the capsule's parachute system and removed almost a mile of flammable tape, as Ars Technica reported earlier this year.

The plan is for NASA astronauts Barry "Butch" Wilmore and Suni Williams to travel to the ISS for a ten-day stay. The team is being realistic about what to expect.

"The expectation from the media should not be perfection," Wilmore told Ars Technica last week. "This is a test flight. Flying and operating in space is hard. It’s really hard, and we’re going to find some stuff. That’s expected."

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