However, it did not come to fruition.
Meanwhile, Boeing is still trying to pass an uncrewed test flight. The company will make its second attempt this week, hoping that the flawless performance will repair its image as a falling star in human spaceflight.
Here’s a look back at Starliner’s past attempts.
In 2014, NASA awarded fixed-price contracts — meaning the space agency would only pay the agreed initial price and not a penny more — to Boeing and SpaceX. The move cemented its openings as companies that will return NASA astronauts to space under the Commercial Crew program. Boeing’s prize pool totaled $4.2 billion, a significant amount compared to SpaceX’s $2.6 billion, though the company said that because SpaceX has already received millions to develop an unmanned version of the Dragon craft.
Although both spacecraft were expected to blast astronauts into space after only a few years, toward the end of the decade, it became clear that SpaceX was outselling Boeing.
And almost immediately after the launch of the Starliner on December 20, 2019, it was clear that something was wrong.
Later, it was revealed that the Starliner’s internal clock had been off for 11 hours, causing the spacecraft to misfire and stumble, NASA and Boeing officials told reporters. Starliner was forced to return early to Earth.
Boeing agreed to solve the problems and pay for the second attempt of the unmanned test flight, putting aside nearly half a billion dollars. After months of troubleshooting, safety reviews and investigations, the test flight.
Ex-astronaut withdraws from mission
Former NASA astronaut Chris Ferguson, who left the State Astronaut Corps in 2011 to help Boeing design and build the Starliner, was scheduled to lead the Starliner’s first manned mission as a private astronaut. But after the inaugural flight test failed, Ferguson announced he could no longer fly the craft, citing scheduling conflicts.
Although the manned mission has been rescheduled several times, there do not appear to be plans to bring Ferguson back into the mission.
Viscous valves and FL moisture
Boeing thought it was ready to return the Starliner to testing last year, and has scheduled a second attempt at orbital flight testing – this one dubbed OFT-2 – for August.
More problems arose quickly. When the spacecraft was moved to its launch pad and began conducting pre-flight ground checks, engineers discovered that the main valves on the Starliner were sticking. Ultimately, Boeing announced that the problem could not be fixed on the launch pad, and the entire vehicle had to be returned to the assembly building for further troubleshooting.
In press conferences leading up to the test battle Thursday, Boeing officials revealed that they will fly OFT-2 this week with a “short-term” overhaul in place, but that the company may eventually choose to redesign the fuse system.
Boeing confirmed in a statement that a lawsuit was filed on behalf of the employee and the subcontractor. “The matter has been settled by all parties, and the terms of the settlement are confidential,” the statement said.
Court documents confirm that the matter was settled in December 2021.