Now, Boeing is going to redo a higher-part of that mission. On August 3, Orbital Flight Test 2, or OFT-2, will send the Starliner back to the ISS. The company cannot afford another failure.
“There’s a lot of credibility at stake here,” said Greg Atrey, a space policy expert at Arizona State University. “Nothing is more visible than the space system that flies people.”
July0 The afternoon of July is a clear reminder of that visibility. After docking Russia’s new 2-ton multipurpose naval module with the ISS, it unexpectedly and without command began firing its thrusters, removing the ISS from its proper and normal position in orbit. NASA and Russia have solved the problem and things have stabilized in an hour, but we still don’t know what happened, and it’s uncomfortable to think what could happen if the situation worsens. The whole incident is still under investigation and has forced NASA to postpone the launch of Starliner from July 31 to August.
This is exactly the kind of disaster Boeing FT-2 wants to avoid for any future missions with people on board.
How the Starliner got here
The discontinuation of the space shuttle program in 2011 gave NASA a chance to rethink its approach. Instead of building a new spacecraft designed to travel in low Earth orbit, the company has been selected to open up private sector opportunities as part of a new commercial crew program. It contracts Boeing and SpaceX to build their own crew vehicles, Starliner and Crew Dragon, respectively. NASA will buy flights in these vehicles and focus on its own efforts to create new technology for missions to the moon, Mars and elsewhere.
Both companies delayed development, and the only way for NASA to go into space for nine years was to hand over millions of dollars to Russia for seats on the Soyuz mission. SpaceX finally sent astronauts in May 2020 (two more crew missions since then), but Boeing is still lagging behind. The December 2019 flight was supposed to prove that all its systems worked and that it was able to dock with the ISS and return to Earth safely. But An error with his internal clock This makes it impossible to dock with the ISS, due to prematurely running a critical burn.
Subsequent investigations revealed that a The second error The Starliner could fire its thruster at the wrong time when it returns to Earth, which could destroy the spacecraft. That bug was fixed just hours before Starliner returned home. Software problems are not unexpected in the development of spacecraft, but they are things Boeing could solve ahead of time with improved quality control Or Better surveillance from NASA.
Boeing had 21 months to resolve these issues. NASA has never claimed another Starliner flight test; Boeing has chosen to do it again and is getting the 410 million bill itself.
“I absolutely hope the test will be perfect,” Atri says. “These issues are associated with software systems, and should be easily resolved.”
What is at risk
If things go wrong, reactions will depend on those things. If the spacecraft faces another crisis of software problems, it will probably have to pay hell and it is very difficult to see how Boeing’s relationship with NASA can be restored. A catastrophic failure for other reasons can also be bad, but the space is unstable, and even minor problems that are difficult to predict and control can lead to explosive results. It could be more forgiving.
If the new test is not successful, NASA will still work with Boeing, but Roger Handberg, a space policy expert at the University of Central Florida, said it could be “closed again for a few years.” “NASA will probably return to SpaceX for more flights. Boeing will have more difficulties.”
Boeing needs OFT-2 without just fulfilling the agreement with NASA. Neither SpaceX nor Boeing built their new vehicles to run ISS missions – they each had ambitions. “There is a real demand [for access to space] From People of high value, Appeared in the early 2000s, when several Russians flew in the Soyuz, “says Atri.” Many countries have a very strong business of flying sovereign astronauts who are not ready to build their own vehicles. “
SpaceX will prove to be an extremely tough competition. It was Personal mission – his own And Through Axiom Space– Already scheduled for the next few years. More is sure to come, especially since Axiom, Sierra Nevada, And other companies plan to build private space stations to pay visitors.
Boeing’s biggest problem is cost. NASA is paying the company 90 90 million per seat for flying astronauts to the ISS, versus এ 55 million per seat for SpaceX. “NASA can afford them because the company didn’t want to be dependent on a single flight system after the shuttle problem – if it breaks down, everything shuts down,” Handberg said. But private citizens and other countries are likely to be fat for cheaper and more experienced alternatives.
Boeing nowadays can certainly use some good PR. It is making a major booster for the 20 20 billion and calculated space launch system, which is set to be the most powerful rocket in the world. But there are high costs and widespread delays It has turned into an electric rod for criticism. Meanwhile, alternatives to SpaceX’s Falcon Heavy and Super Heavy, Blue Origin’s New Glen and ULA’s Vulcan Centaur have emerged or are set to debut in the next few years. In 2019, NASA’s Inspector General The Boeing deal, valued at 66 661 million, saw potential fraud. And one of the main characters at the center of CompanyA Criminal investigation Involves previous bids for lunar lander deals.
If ever Boeing wanted to remind people what it was capable of and what it could do for the U.S. space program, it was next week.
“Another failure will put Boeing so far behind SpaceX that they may have to consider major changes to their approach,” Handberg said. “For Boeing, it’s The Show. “