GAME OVER! Boeing Starliner Is Getting CRUSHED By SpaceX & Elon Musk
Boeing is a big name in aviation, however, it is also a big name in space technologies. The company has lots of NASA contracts under its belt. It is therefore puzzling to contemplate how Boeing is struggling with the Starliner aircraft NASA contracted it to build. While SpaceX continues to record success after success, Boeing has been moving from one embarrassment to another as it cancels flight after flight.
we look at the spectacular failure the Starliner is becoming for Boeing. The Starliner journey began for Boeing when it got one of a pair of contracts from NASA in 2010. NASA’s aim was the Commercial Crew Program, which the agency wanted to use to renew its retired space shuttle program and increase its presence on the ISS. To execute the program, NASA commissioned both Boeing and SpaceX to build a reusable rocket-spacecraft system that will transport both astronauts and payloads to the space station.
The space agency wants commercial companies to take over launching its astronauts and cargo to the international space station. NASA followed its tradition of issuing two contracts for the same job to hedge its bet. The idea is that there should be more than one operational astronaut taxi so that orbital access is always available even when one of the contractors disappoints. Right out of the gate, Boeing got the better treatment from NASA. It got 4.3 billion dollars to finish developing the Starliner and to carry out six crewed missions while SpaceX got only 2.5 billion dollars for basically the same job! Not only that, Boeing got additional 300 million dollars to cover its expenses for overshooting its own project timeline. Boeing decided to launch its spacecraft atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket while SpaceX planned to blast off its own capsule called the Crew Dragon with its heavy-duty Falcon 9 booster rocket. From that moment onward, Boeing could not avoid the progress of its Starliner being compared with what SpaceX is achieving with its Crew Dragon capsule.
Sadly, the comparison is pitiful. Granted, both contractors ended up falling behind their original schedule, due to a myriad of reasons. NASA wanted fights to commence in 2017 but space technology is not a walk in the park by any means as there are many possibilities for failure. For example, after acing its uncrewed test flight to the space station in March 2019, a Crew Dragon capsule exploded on the test stand a month later during engine trials. However, only one of the pair of contractors has delivered and it is not SpaceX. Boeing’s woes began even before getting to orbit. While testing the Starliner’s launch-abort engines in June 2019, a propellant leak caused the capsule’s development to be pushed back. Starliner did make it to orbit in December 2019, almost a decade after getting the contract.
However, it turned out to be a huge failure as the Starliner did not reach the International Space Station due to a timing glitch to cause it to burn fuel prematurely. Instead, the capsule returned to earth in a shortened test flight. In the post-flight analysis by Boeing and NASA, the team discovered over 80 corrective actions that Boeing had to take. The corrective actions covered integrated testing and simulation, processes and operations, software, the crew module communication system, and organization.
It took Boeing more than a year to fix all the corrections, including the ones it discovered on its own, and get the Starliner ready for another flight test, although it would use a new spacecraft. The second attempt at a Starliner flight was scheduled to take place before April 1st. However, the planned flight had to be postponed due to the widespread power outage that Texas suffered earlier this year. However, a string of hard luck and technical problems awaited the Starliner. The unscrewed flight scheduled for July 30 to verify the spacecraft systems had to be postponed because a week earlier, the space station was sent into a spin when a newly added Russian module, the Nauka, inadvertently fired its thrusters.
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