CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Boeing’s astronaut capsule faces more launch delays after the discovery of problems that should have been caught earlier, officials said.
Boeing and NASA announced the latest setback Thursday.
Until recently, the Starliner capsule was on track for a July test flight with two astronauts to the International Space Station, a planned trip that was already well behind schedule.
But final reviews revealed issues with parachute cables and other problems which were evident on the test flight last year with no astronauts on board. Officials said that these should have been detected years ago.
Mark Nappi, Boeing’s program manager, said that he believes Starliner could fly before the end of this year, but he would not commit to a date or time frame until all problems have been resolved.
According to Nappi, the capsule contains wire harnesses that are wrapped with flammable white tape. Rather than trying to remove the hundreds of feet of tape, which was supposed to protect against scuffing, the company may cover it with a safer material.
Parachute line strength was not high enough to comply with safety standards.
“These tests were run many years ago. We reviewed those results. Nappi stated that we missed these results and it could have been detected sooner.
Following the retirement of the space shuttles more than a decade ago, NASA hired Boeing and SpaceX to transport astronauts to and from the space station. SpaceX has now completed 10 crew flights, three of them private. Boeing was forced to repeat the 2019 flight test without crew due to software issues and other problems.
“NASA urgently needs another provider of crew transportation, said Steve Stich. He is the commercial crew program manager at NASA.
The goal is to have one SpaceX and one Boeing taxi flight to the station each year.
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