The launch for Boeing’s new space capsule, originally scheduled to take off this month, has been delayed.
The Starliner Capsule will take its first test flight in August and another with astronauts inside it later in the year, NASA announced Wednesday. The original schedule had the first test flight taking off this month, while a manned mission would launch in August.
“The extended duration test flight offers NASA the opportunity to complete additional microgravity research, maintenance, and other activities while the company’s Starliner is docked to station. The mission duration will be determined at a later date,” NASA said in a statement. “While the Starliner spacecraft for the Orbital Flight Test is close to complete, the additional time will allow teams to thoroughly focus on the test and validation activities well ahead of launch.”
"We remain diligent, with a safety-first culture,” added John Mulholland, vice president and program manager of Boeing’s commercial crew program. “While we have already made substantial progress this year, this shift gives us the time to continue building a safe, quality spacecraft capable of carrying crews over and over again after a successful uncrewed test, without adding unnecessary schedule pressure.”
NASA attributed the delay to “limited launch opportunities in April and May” and a “critical” Air Force launch in June, adding that the Starliner spacecraft is nearly complete ahead of the unmanned test.
The agency is currently partnering with both Boeing and SpaceX to develop a commercial crew program. SpaceX launched its Dragon capsule to the International Space Station last month and could send up a manned mission as early as this summer.
The U.S. has not launched astronauts from American soil since NASA canceled their shuttle program in 2011.