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Too many problems to be solved. First manned flight of Boeing Starliner spacecraft postponed to 2023

NASA and Boeing officials at a joint press conference announced the postponement of the first manned flight of the Boeing Starliner spacecraft to early 2023. Steve Stich, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Manager, said the mission could launch as early as February.

The Starliner was previously scheduled to fly with astronauts in late 2022, but ongoing work on several major issues that were identified during the Starliner’s uncrewed test flight in May pushed back the schedule.

The problems identified then concerned both the engines (they “hung” – they did not turn on at the moment when they should have) and the software. None of these problems seriously affected the test mission, and the vehicle was still able to complete the multi-day journey to the ISS and return safely to Earth, however, NASA and Boeing considered these problems serious enough to require them to be addressed before allowing the crew to board.

It is noteworthy that the first attempt to send Starliner on an orbital test launch in late 2019 had to be aborted – to send the device directly to the ground, and not to dock with the ISS – after software problems caused the device to veer off course. It took almost two years of troubleshooting before the Starliner was ready to return to the launch pad.

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