The bad news for Boeing has been noticed day after day.
Revelations revealed that she had not done enough to train the pilots to a system failure on her 737 line, which caused a crash in Indonesia, then another in Ethiopia this month, killing everyone in board of the two flights, a total of 346 people.
The NASA administrator then announced that the agency was planning to set aside the huge rocket that Boeing is helping to build because of the slowness of its schedule. And now, the agency is about to announce another major delay in a separate large-scale program: the spacecraft that Boeing built to allow astronauts to travel to the International Space Station.
The first test date for the Starliner capsule was due in April, which had already been postponed several times. Now, this first flight – a test mission without astronauts on board – will be delayed by at least August, according to two officials familiar with the situation.
That, in turn, would push the first flight with humans on board at the earliest in November, but some said the company might be forced to postpone flying in 2020 if it discovered more problems with the spacecraft. Reuters The first Starliner calendar has been announced.
The delays put additional pressure on Boeing, not least because its main competitor, SpaceX, which is also under contract to send NASA astronauts to the station, made its first test flight earlier this month. And it seemed to go perfectly.
NASA has been forced to pay Russia to travel to the space station since it was removed from the space shuttle in 2011. Both SpaceX and Boeing have fallen behind, forcing NASA to look into the possibility buy more seats from Russia at a cost of more than 80 million dollars each.
The Starliner version that flies without passengers will be as similar as possible to the spaceship that ultimately has humans on board, officials said. Boeing hopes that there will not be much work left between the two flights, which will allow him to complete his crewed mission this year. SpaceX's Dragon capsule has a number of issues to resolve between flights, officials said. As a result, the time between flights could be longer, said NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine.
"I think there will be less time between Boeing's non-equipped vehicle and Boeing's crewed vehicle and more time between [flights for] SpaceX, "he recently told CNBC. "That is to say, whoever will have to fly this first crew – we do not know it at the moment. But I will tell you that I am very confident that it will be before the end of 2019. "
NASA is also expected to announce soon that when Boeing finally sends a three-member crew to the station on its first test flight with humans on board, the astronauts will stay close to seven months in what NASA calls a "Long-time." Previously, the crewed flight test astronauts were supposed to stay on the station only for about two weeks.
NASA awarded Boeing a $ 4.2 billion contract in 2014 for the construction of Starliner. But he has encountered many problems. Last year, during a test of his emergency abandonment system, officials discovered a propellant leak that forced him to rethink the system's valves. .
The Government Accountability Office has also discovered a problem with the abortion system that could eventually cause it to "fall, which could pose a threat to crew safety." Boeing said he was about to fix the problem.
One of the reasons the company is pushing the launch date is due to a significant launch of national security, scheduled for June, that will occupy the launch pad and associated facilities for weeks, officials said, forcing Boeing to push back the limits of the month of August.
The news of Starliner's delay came as Bridenstine said the agency was planning to set aside its Space Launch System rocket, which Boeing is helping to speed up the launch of a space shuttle in orbit around the moon.
SLS, as its name indicates, has also faced repeated delays, and a government oversight body has recently turned to Boeing, the project's project manager, claiming that it's not going to be the case. he had already spent $ 5.3 billion and that he would have to spend the remaining funds by the beginning of the year, three years in advance and without delivering a single rocket step.