Boeing is delaying the first uncrewed test flight of the CST-100 Starliner, the vehicle that was contracted to ferry astronauts to the International Space Station.
The first uncrewed test flight of the Starliner was originally scheduled to happen in April. New reports, however, revealed that the launch will be pushed back for at least three months. The crewed test flight was also moved from August to November 2019.
Is Boeing CST-100 Starliner Ready For Launch?
Boeing has not issued a statement to confirm and explain the delay. However, last month, NASA warned the company and fellow contractor SpaceX of design and safety concerns that need to be addressed before the crewed launches.
SpaceX's Crew Dragon has completed its first uncrewed test flight earlier this year, making history by becoming the first privately built crew-capable spacecraft to complete a mission to the ISS. The company founded by Elon Musk has also completed a pad abort test in 2015. The first crewed flight of the Crew Dragon is scheduled to take place in July.
On the other hand, Boeing is yet to perform a pad abort test that will demonstrate the escape launch system of the spacecraft and determine whether it can get the crew out safely in case of emergency. The pad abort test has to be completed before the first crewed test launch.
In a recent interview with MIT, NASA astronaut Edward Michael Fincke revealed that the CST-100 Starliner is "going through its testing phase." Fincke, together with four other astronauts, will board the spacecraft later this year.
NASA Mulls Purchase Of Soyuz Seats For 2019, 2020
While the Commercial Crew Program continues to make tremendous progress, NASA is not sure that the Crew Dragon and the CST-100 Starliner will be ready for operational flights next year. According to reports, the space agency is considering purchasing two more seats, which will cost $81 million each, onboard the Soyuz. The launches will take place by fall 2019 and spring 2020.
NASA's last flight contracted with Russia's Roscosmos is scheduled for July.