According to Reuters, NASA is preparing to announce that the uncrewed test flight of the Boeing Starliner spacecraft will slip from April to August. In an article published on March 20, Reuters’ aerospace correspondent Eric Johnson referenced “two people with direct knowledge of the matter.”
The most recent revision to NASA’s Commercial Crew launch schedule was announced on February 6. The announcement projected an April 2019 launch date for Boeing’s uncrewed test and an August 2019 date for the company’s crewed test. With this latest delay pushing the uncrewed test to August, it’s unlikely Boeing will launch a crewed test this year.
NASA is expected to release revised Commercial Crew launch dates next week.
Boeing began development of the CST-100 Starliner spacecraft as far back as 2010. In October of that year, the company was awarded $18 million after being selected for Phase 1 of NASA’s Commercial Crew Development (CCDev) program. In 2011, the Starliner spacecraft was selected for Phase 2 of the CCDev program along with the SpaceX Crew Dragon and vehicles from Blue Origin and Sierra Nevada Corporation. After receiving $93.3 million in Phase 2 funding, Boeing began to project that it would be able to produce an operational capsule by 2015.
The first two phases of the Commercial Crew Development program required companies to hit development benchmarks of key systems. In September 2011, NASA began drafting a request for proposals for the Commercial Crew integrated Capability (CCiCap) initiative. The initiative sought to require companies to began to design complete launch systems that included spacecraft, launch vehicles and services, ground and mission operations, and recovery capabilities. Boeing received an additional $440 million in CCiCap funding to continue work on the Starliner.
In 2014, both Boeing and SpaceX were awarded contracts to provided crewed launch services to the International Space Station. Upon completion of the scheduled missions, Boeing will receive up to $4.2 billion, nearly $2 billion more than SpaceX to complete identical contract requirements.