After review of Starliner’s orbital flight test, Boeing announces testing changes for future missions

Unclear when next Starliner flight -- with or without astronauts -- will be

TITUSVILLE, Fla. – Early into its first journey on Dec. 20, the auto-piloted Orbital Flight Test of Boeing’s Starliner had to cancel going to the International Space Station because of a timing failure.

There were two software issues but after two months of reviews, Boeing still calls the key mission in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program working to return astronauts to space from Florida “largely successful.”

"We learned some hard lessons that were taken to heart to make an even better spacecraft," Starliner Program Manager John Mulholland told reporters Friday in a teleconference.

[RELATED: Report: Boeing didn’t perform end-to-end test of Starliner prior to problem spaceflight]

Boeing said Starliner did not pull the correct mission-elapsed time from the United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket because that software was not tested end-to-end of the mission’s duration, rather in chunks of the flight that were tested independently. Boeing said that’s common testing timekeeping in the space industry.

But now, the Starliner program manager said they will test the software from start to finish for future missions.

“There is obviously an improvement that we need to go make and we’re going to go do that,” Mulholland said. “But certainly, I would not characterize it as the team did not do extensive testing, because they did.”

[MORE: SpaceX Crew Dragon spacecraft arrives in Florida ahead of first astronaut flight]

While Boeing said it’s still too early to say when Starliner might fly next, SpaceX’s Crews Dragon is expecting to fly its astronauts possibly this spring or summer.

Next Friday, another teleconference about the OFT reviews are scheduled and it will be hosted by NASA.

About the Author: