NASA is concerned about Boeing’s silence on the long-delayed second test flight of its Starliner spacecraft, contracted to send astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS). While the other contractor, SpaceX, delivered its Crew Dragon in 2020, Starliner’s first unmanned test flight had to be aborted before it even reached the orbital laboratory.
According to the technology website Ars Techica, although there is no official confirmation from the company, it is likely that Boeing and NASA will target the end of July or beginning of August for the test. The problem now is no longer with Starliner, but with the lack of docking ports to the ISS, due to the heavy traffic at that time.
Since there are only two ports of embarkation / disembarkation at the station, priority should be given to crew substitutions and supply missions. A new Crew Dragon mission (Crew-2) will be launched next Thursday (22) and will be docked for six months, while a SpaceX cargo supply mission (CRS-22) will go to the lab in June.
And when will the flight be manned?
As there are no docking ports available on the ISS this summer, until the SpaceX mission returns to Earth, which is expected to occur on July 20, it is likely that, during this month-long window, Starliner will be able to make the his flight tests which, although not yet confirmed, are expected to take place between the end of July and the beginning of August.
Thus, NASA officials say it is not possible to speak of tests with crew until the analysis of the Orbital Flight Test-2 is completed. A source from the aerospace agency told Ars Technica that, after a one-week period in which the Starliner will remain connected to the ISS, it will be necessary, optimistically speaking, another six months of data analysis, which leads us to January 2022.