NASA has revealed that the uncrewed test flight of the Boeing Starliner spacecraft has been pushed from April to August 2019.
Rumours that the uncrewed Boeing Starliner test flight would slip to August began to surface late last month with Reuters quoting sources “with direct knowledge”. Early this morning, NASA officially confirmed that the mission had been rescheduled publishing a press release on the agency’s Commercial Crew blog.
“Boeing now is targeting the company’s uncrewed mission, called Orbital Flight Test, in August 2019, although this is a working target date and to be confirmed.”
With the confirmation, NASA also revealed that limited launch opportunities and a national security mission had promoted the rescheduling.
“The decision to adjust the launch date was guided by limited launch opportunities in April and May, as well as a critical U.S. Air Force national security launch – AEHF-5…”
Despite the uncrewed test flight being pushed to the second half of the year, NASA officials are still confident a crewed Boeing Starliner will be launched before the end of the year. This confidence in the Boeing spacecraft was reinforced with officials revealing that the agency, in consultation with the aerospace giant, had made the decision to extend the duration of the Starliner’s first crewed mission.
“NASA and Boeing have agreed to extend the duration of the company’s first crewed flight test to the International Space Station after completing an in-depth technical assessment of the CST-100 Starliner systems. NASA found the long-duration flight to be technically feasible and in the best interest of the agency’s needs to ensure continued access and better utilization of the orbiting laboratory.”
Before Boeing launches a crewed mission, however, they will need to successfully complete the uncrewed test and a pad abort test. The Starliner pad abort test is currently tentatively scheduled for “summer 2019”.