After a series of postponements, the Starliner capsule that was supposed to make its debut this month is now off until August.
In a statement, Boeing said the first flight, the Orbital Flight Test,, is now delayed to August on a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 from Cape Canaveral, Florida. That launch had been planned for this spring.
But what made the delay? Boeing said the issue was a pad conflict with the Advanced Extremely High Frequency (AEHF) 5 military communications satellite which was scheduled to launch in late June on another Atlas 5 but from the same pad. Boeing further said they had only a two-day launch window in May available for the Starliner launch before they would have to stand down for the AEHF-5 launch.
The Crew Flight Test mission extension will allow the space station crew to conduct additional research and maintenance, helping ensure the U.S. segment of the orbiting outpost remains fully staffed as NASA transitions from exclusively using Russian Soyuz crew capsules to using a mix of SpaceX, Boeing, and Russian vehicles for astronaut transportation.
Despite the delays, NASA Administrator Jim Bridenstine said he believed crewed test flights would take place this year.
By the end of this year, we will be launching American astronauts on American rockets from American soil – Jim Bridenstine
He said at a House Science Committee hearing about the agency’s fiscal year 2020 budget request.