NASA's Commercial Crew Program made giant strides this year after the successful uncrewed flight test of SpaceX's Crew Dragon. However, it also encountered another setback.
On Wednesday, April 3, the U.S. space agency confirmed that the target test flight of Boeing's CST-100 Starliner to the International Space Station will be moved to a later date.
In a press release, NASA said that vehicle is almost ready for launch, but the delay is due to the limited launch opportunities in April and May.
Boeing CST-100 Starliner Uncrewed Orbital Flight Test Delayed
The CST-100 Starliner was initially set to make its first uncrewed orbital Flight Test this month, but Boeing is now targeting an August launch. The crewed Orbital Flight Test has been pushed into an unspecified late 2019 date.
The aerospace company will take advantage of the delay to prep for the test, which is meant to demonstrate the vehicle's capability to ferry astronauts safely to low-orbit.
"We remain diligent, with a safety-first culture," stated John Mulholland, the program manager behind Boeing's Commercial Crew Program. "While we have already made substantial progress this year, this shift gives us the time to continue building a safe, quality spacecraft capable of carrying crews over and over again after a successful uncrewed test, without adding unnecessary schedule pressure."
A Series Of Setbacks
The delay, which was first reported late last month, is only the latest in the series of delays in the Commercial Crew Program, which is already years behind schedule. NASA awarded Boeing and SpaceX the contract to ferry astronauts from the U.S. soil to the ISS in 2014, ending the United States' dependence on Russia's Soyuz.
The space agency originally planned to begin operational flights in 2017.
The last flight contracted by the United States with Russia's Roscosmos is set to launch in July. Previous reports revealed that NASA is planning to purchase two more seats on the Soyuz: one for late 2019 and one by early 2020. This will make sure that its astronauts will be present on the ISS.
The CST-100 Starliner is lagging behind the Crew Dragon, which has already completed a pad-abort test in 2015. SpaceX is currently prepping for the In-Flight Abort Test, which Boeing also has to complete and is scheduled to make its first crewed Flight Test in July.