Space is important to us and that’s why we’re working to bring you top coverage of the industry and Florida launches. Journalism like this takes time and resources. Please support it with a subscription here.
NASA announced new launch dates of its 2023 astronaut missions to the International Space Station and Boeing’s debut crewed mission picked up another two-month delay.
The troubled Starliner capsule now won’t get its opportunity to launch with crew members any time before April 2023. That’s two months later than the previous February 2023 launch date.
Instead, the agency’s next SpaceX Crew Dragon ISS mission, Crew-6, is now on tap for a mid-February 2023 launch aboard a Falcon 9 rocket.
That mission, originally planned for spring 2023, will carry two NASA astronauts, one astronaut from the United Arab Emirates, and one Russian cosmonaut to the space station for a roughly six-month stay.
Orion spacecraft purchase orders confirmed:NASA commits $2 billion for three more Artemis program Orion capsules
Flight test pushed back:NASA, Boeing target early 2023 for Starliner’s long-awaited Crew Flight Test
100 successful launches :SpaceX marked 100 successful missions from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station on Thursday
The agency said in a blog post that the decision to push back Starliner’s Crew Flight Test “deconflicts visiting spacecraft traffic at the space station.” NASA also explained it’s still working with Boeing to address several remaining issues following the less-than-perfect uncrewed OFT-2 test last May. More information beyond “a variety of verification efforts across several critical systems,” was not disclosed however.
The Starliner experienced multiple issues with thruster corrosion prior to an OFT-2 launch attempt and multiple thruster performance issues during the flight test in May. Unfortunately, those thrusters were located on the Starliner’s service module which is discarded during re-entry before landing.
In August, Mark Nappi, Boeing Starliner program manager, told reporters, that Boeing teams have made sure “that same condition doesn’t exist.”
In NASA’s blog post, the agency said that all crewed flight test hardware components including the Starliner and the rocket it will launch on, United Launch Alliance’s Atlas V, are on track to be completed in the early part of 2023.
The Starliner capsule slated to launch Boeing’s first crew of astronauts is a reused one from the first uncrewed orbital flight test back in 2019 called “Calypso.”
Boeing recently completed refurbishing the exterior and installing the heat shield. It will be mated with its service module later this year at Boeing’s factory located at Kennedy Space Center. That was originally set to occur this month.
Whenever it launches, Starliner’s crewed flight test mission will carry NASA astronauts Barry Wilmore and Suni Williams to the ISS for about two weeks.
The goal, to certify Boeing’s Starliner human transportation system for future long-duration ISS missions for NASA. The first operational mission won’t have an anticipated launch date until the CFT is deemed successful.
For the latest, visit floridatoday.com/launchschedule.
Jamie Groh is a space reporter for Florida Today. You can contact her at JGroh@floridatoday.com. Follow her on Twitter at @AlteredJamie.