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Boeing to Fly Second Starliner Uncrewed Test Flight

Boeing announced that it has decided to fly a second uncrewed test flight of its CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle later this year to confirm it has corrected problems encountered in a test flight last December.

In a brief statement, Boeing said it would perform a second Orbital Flight Test (OFT) of the spacecraft at its own expense. However, the statement does not indicate when the second OFT will lift off.

“We have chosen to refly our Orbital Flight Test to demonstrate the quality of the Starliner system,” the company said in a one-paragraph statement. “Flying another uncrewed flight will allow us to complete all flight test objectives and evaluate the performance of the second Starliner vehicle at no cost to the taxpayer,”

In December 2019, the company launched its CST-100 Starliner capsule to the ISS on an uncrewed demonstration mission called Orbital Flight Test (OFT), which was intended to show that the spacecraft can safely carry NASA astronauts.

But things didn’t go as planned: Starliner suffered a glitch with its onboard timing system, got stranded in the wrong orbit and was brought down for a safe landing after circling Earth by itself for two days.

Boeing had planned for this outcome financially. The company announced in late January that it was setting aside $410 million in case it was decided to refly OFT.

Boeing has been developing Starliner under a series of NASA contracts. The most recent of these, a $4.2 billion deal signed in 2014, covers the end of development work and the launch of six operational crewed missions to the ISS.

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