NASA, Boeing delay Starliner capsule's 1st astronaut launch to early May

a silver and white space capsule sits inside a huge white-walled room with an american flag in the background.
The Boeing Starliner capsule that will fly the company’s Crew Flight Test mission to the International Space Station is shown at NASA’s Kennedy Space Center in Florida in April 2023. (Image credit: Boeing/John Grant)

The long-delayed first crewed mission of Boeing's new Starliner capsule has been pushed back again.

That mission to the International Space Station (ISS), called Crew Flight Test (CFT), had been tentatively scheduled to launch in mid-April. But that's no longer the plan, NASA and Boeing announced on Friday (March 8).

CFT is "currently scheduled to launch [in] early May due to space station scheduling," agency officials wrote in an update on Friday afternoon.

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

CFT will lift off atop a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Florida's Cape Canaveral Space Force Station. It will send Starliner, and NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, to the ISS for a roughly 10-day stay.

The test flight had been scheduled to launch last July. However, technical issues —chiefly, a problem with the suspension lines on Starliner's main parachutes and the fact that much of the capsule's wiring was wrapped with flammable tape — pushed the liftoff to this spring.  

Those problems are under control, NASA said in an update in late January, which stressed that CFT was still on track for a mid-April launch. But ISS traffic issues can alter schedules as well, as Friday's news attests.

Boeing has been developing Starliner under a multibillion-dollar contract the company signed with NASA in September 2014. The capsule has launched on two uncrewed test flights to date, both of which targeted the ISS. 

Starliner suffered several problems on the first mission, which flew in December 2019, and failed to meet up with the orbiting lab as planned. The capsule succeeded on its second try, which lifted off in May 2022.

NASA also awarded SpaceX a commercial crew contract in September 2014. Elon Musk's company has now launched eight operational astronaut missions to the ISS for NASA, the most recent of which, called Crew-8, lifted off on Sunday (March 3).

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Mike Wall
Senior Space Writer

Michael Wall is a Senior Space Writer with and joined the team in 2010. He primarily covers exoplanets, spaceflight and military space, but has been known to dabble in the space art beat. His book about the search for alien life, "Out There," was published on Nov. 13, 2018. Before becoming a science writer, Michael worked as a herpetologist and wildlife biologist. He has a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from the University of Sydney, Australia, a bachelor's degree from the University of Arizona, and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California, Santa Cruz. To find out what his latest project is, you can follow Michael on Twitter.

  • Ozymandias
    Admin said:
    NASA and Boeing have delayed the first-ever crewed flight of the company's new Starliner capsule to early May, a slip of a few weeks.

    NASA, Boeing delay Starliner capsule's 1st astronaut launch to early May : Read more
    My frustration with legacy space contractors would go way down if we just stopped pretending that they are building anything and just wrote them a check every couple of months. We can think of it as a pension. Moving on....
    Wait... what? The capsule's wiring was wrapped with flammable tape??? Haven't we learned anything from the Apollo 1 fire?
  • Axel Tillert
    Did anyone believe that Boeing in its current state, is able to build a spacecraft?
  • lifeboatpres
    "Elon Musk's company has now launched eight operational astronaut missions to the ISS for NASA, the most recent of which, called Crew-8, lifted off on Sunday (March 3)."

    This doesn't accurately compare Crew Dragon to Starliner as it ignores one NASA mission with 2 astronauts and 4 private missions with another 16 astronauts.

    It would be better to say that "Elon Musk's company has launched 50 astronauts with Crew Dragon so far."
  • ricke
    Might want to delay it indefinitely and start anew. If Boeing can't built a plane that doesn't have some major malfunction, how can they possibly build something as complex as a space capsule.

    If it's Boeing, I ain't going.
  • RFM
    I believe it is a risk to send the astronauts on a 10 day mission outside of earth's orbit in what is not a fully tested capsule. The last test did not have a full environmental system on board. Even in the race to the moon, Apollo spacecraft with a crew spent mission length time in an orbital test to ring out the systems. Had there been any issues, they could have deorbited in short order. I believe an earth orbit mission length test is better approach.
  • Unclear Engineer
    RFM, The mission is to the International Space Station for 10 days on the station. So, there is plenty of opportunity for a "bail out" if the Boeing Starliner capsule had problems. I think you are confusing it with the Orion capsule that is part of the Artemis Program for going to the Moon.

    The only thing the the Boeing Starliner capsule is doing that previous U.S. capsules have not done is to return to Earth on dry land instead of splashing down in the ocean. But, the Russians have been doing that for decades. And SpaceX is working on even more impressive vertical landings of much larger craft (Starship) that will be quickly reusable. Not to mention Dream Chaser, which will land like an airplane/ space shuttle at regular airports.

    So, when Boeing finally gets a successful flight, the question is how long their product will actually be useful and used.
  • RFM
    Sorry, I did get the two mixed up. Thanks for the correction.
    I still would prefer Orion to do a 10 day earth orbit with the first crewed vehicle rather than a trip to the moon.
  • Unclear Engineer
    The first Orion capsule flight was an unmanned 25 day flight that went to the Moon, went into orbit around the Moon, then came back to Earth, reentering the atmosphere and splashing into the Pacific Ocean where it was successfully recovered.

    The Artemis 2 flight is planned to do pretty much the same things except with crew aboard.

    The Artemis launches are extremely expensive, so NASA really can't afford baby steps in successive missions.

    That said, the major risk elements seem to be the lunar landing, which will be done with an as yet undesigned version of SpaceX 's Starship, the liftoff of that Starship from the Moon and its rendezvous and docking in lunar orbit to get back the crew back into the Orion capsule to head back to Earth.

    Some of us are wondering whether it would make more sense to just have the NASA astronauts go to the Moon in the SpaceX Starship to begin with.

    Whatever is done with Starship will require in-space refueling, which this next flight of Starship is planned to test by pumping fuel from one tank to another inside Starship, not between 2 Starships as will be required for Artemis Moon landing missions.
  • newtons_laws
    Unclear Engineer said:
    Some of us are wondering whether it would make more sense to just have the NASA astronauts go to the Moon in the SpaceX Starship to begin with.
    You have a good point there, but of course NASA has spent $Billions on developing the SLS and Orion systems, so if they aren't used in the Artemis missions then politically they risk becoming a white elephant.