June 24, 2024

Boeing records more losses from Starliner delays

WASHINGTON — Boeing took another loss on its CST-100 Starliner commercial crew program as the first crewed flight of that vehicle remains in limbo.

In its fiscal second quarter financial results released July 26, the company said it took a $257 million loss on the Starliner program, citing the delay in the vehicle’s first flight with astronauts on board that Boeing and NASA announced June 1. That loss was the biggest single factor in a $527 million loss the company reported for its Defense, Space and Security business unit in the quarter.

The loss is the latest financial setback for Boeing on the fixed-price contract. The company has previously recorded $883 million in charges against earnings linked to Starliner, including $195 million in the third quarter of 2022. Those charges covered delays in the vehicle’s development and the cost to fly a second uncrewed test flight.

“On Starliner, we’re in lockstep with our customer. We’ve prioritized safety, and we’re taking whatever time is required. We’re confident in that team and committed to getting it right,” said David Calhoun, president and chief executive of Boeing, in an earnings call. He did not elaborate on those efforts or estimate how much time is required.

When NASA and Boeing announced the latest delay in the Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission, Mark Nappi, vice president and program manager for CST-100 Starliner at Boeing, said it was premature then to announce a new launch date, stating that the company needed “several days” to review the work needed to address parachute harness and wire tape issues that caused the delay.

During a July 25 NASA briefing about the upcoming SpaceX Crew-7 mission to the International Space Station, Steve Stich, NASA commercial crew program manager, said the Starliner program had “stepped back” to take a detailed look at all aspects of preparations for the crewed flight, a recommendation made by NASA’s Aerospace Safety Advisory Panel shortly before the latest problems.

The program had found a new joint for use in the parachute system that would meet the required factor of safety that the existing component fell short of. “That joint is in testing right now and we’re in the middle of looking at that joint and figuring out how to get it into the chutes for flight,” he said.

Others have been removing tape for wire harnesses in the spacecraft that tests showed to be flammable. Stich said engineers had found an alternative tape that is not flammable to use in its place.

Stich, though, did not offer a revised schedule for the CFT mission, which will carry NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams to the International Space Station for a brief stay. That launch had been scheduled for July 21 before the delay.

“The work on Starliner is progressing well,” he said. “We need to step back a little bit and take a look at how all this work lines up. We’re not really ready to talk a launch opportunity yet.”

Stich said the focus for now is resolving the technical issues. NASA and Boeing will meet “when the time is right and pick a launch target.”

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