Boeing's 1st Starliner flight with astronauts delayed to April 2024

view of a spacecraft docked above earth, through a window
Boeing's Starliner space capsule docked at the International Space Station during an uncrewed test flight. (Image credit: ESA)

We'll have to wait a bit longer to see Boeing's Starliner spacecraft carry astronauts for the first time.

The first crewed test flight of Starliner has been pushed back an additional month, to no earlier than mid-April 2024, NASA officials said in a release on Thursday (Oct. 12). No reason was given for the change. The target date for the first operational flight of the Boeing spaceship has also been delayed, to early 2025 from summer 2024, agency officials added.

NASA and Boeing had previously said that they were eyeing early March 2024 for Starliner's debut astronaut mission, known as Crew Flight Test (CFT). That was just an anticipated spacecraft readiness date, however, not an official launch target.

Related: Boeing faces 'emerging issues' ahead of Starliner capsule's 1st crewed flight, NASA says

CFT will send NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams on a shakeout cruise to and from the International Space Station (ISS). The mission has faced a series of delays due to various technical problems, pushing its liftoff back repeatedly. 

For example, CFT had been slated to fly this past July, but that plan was scuttled after teams discovered issues with Starliner's wiring and its parachute system.

NASA picked Boeing and SpaceX in September 2014 to provide astronaut flights to and from the ISS, giving each company multibillion-dollar contracts. SpaceX's seventh operational flight to the ISS launched on Aug. 25, while Starliner has launched just twice, neither time with people on board.

Starliner suffered several problems on its first mission, called Orbital Flight Test (OFT), shortly after launch in December 2019 and did not arrive at the ISS as planned. The successor mission, May 2022's OFT-2, made it to the ISS and back to Earth. 

NASA's Thursday news release also confirmed the launch target date for SpaceX's Crew-8 mission as mid-February 2024. Crew-8's four crew members have already been named. They are NASA astronauts Matthew Dominick (commander), Michael Barratt (pilot), and Jeanette Epps (mission specialist), and cosmonaut and mission specialist Alexander Grebenkin.

SpaceX's Crew-9 mission would then launch in August 2024, shortly before Crew-8 returns to Earth. A tenth "crew rotation mission" is expected for early 2025, NASA officials said; it could either be SpaceX's Crew-10 mission or Starliner-1, Boeing's first operational crewed flight to the ISS.

Boeing and NASA had been eyeing summer of 2024 for Starliner-1. But that target date has now been pushed back, to allow time to review results from CFT, including "incorporation of anticipated learning, approvals of final certification products and completion of readiness and certification reviews ahead of that [Starliner-1] mission," NASA officials wrote.

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Elizabeth Howell
Staff Writer, Spaceflight

Elizabeth Howell (she/her), Ph.D., is a staff writer in the spaceflight channel since 2022 covering diversity, education and gaming as well. She was contributing writer for for 10 years before joining full-time. Elizabeth's reporting includes multiple exclusives with the White House and Office of the Vice-President of the United States, an exclusive conversation with aspiring space tourist (and NSYNC bassist) Lance Bass, speaking several times with the International Space Station, witnessing five human spaceflight launches on two continents, flying parabolic, working inside a spacesuit, and participating in a simulated Mars mission. Her latest book, "Why Am I Taller?", is co-written with astronaut Dave Williams. Elizabeth holds a Ph.D. and M.Sc. in Space Studies from the University of North Dakota, a Bachelor of Journalism from Canada's Carleton University and a Bachelor of History from Canada's Athabasca University. Elizabeth is also a post-secondary instructor in communications and science at several institutions since 2015; her experience includes developing and teaching an astronomy course at Canada's Algonquin College (with Indigenous content as well) to more than 1,000 students since 2020. Elizabeth first got interested in space after watching the movie Apollo 13 in 1996, and still wants to be an astronaut someday. Mastodon:

  • newtons_laws
    As Starliner is a fixed price (rather than cost plus) contract all these delays must be hurting Boeing financially. That is appropriate since it's Boeing's technical failures that have caused all the delays.
  • bryant
    Admin said:
    NASA announced that Boeing's commercial crew vehicle, Starliner, will not carry astronauts in a test flight until at least April 2024. Its first operational flight is also delayed into 2025.

    Boeing's 1st Starliner flight with astronauts delayed to April 2024 : Read more
    How many flights will they need to perform before the ISS is decommissioned? seems by the time they are up and running, the station will be deorbited, unless there's a venture capitalist willing to take it on and keep it up, though age is compromising that idea.
  • doc janos
    By now, all aerospace journalists must have a file on their laptop titled starliner_delay.doc in which they simply complete the sentence, "Boeing Starliner launch delayed until _____."