NASA SLS and Boeing Starliner Slipping to 2022

Ars Technica is reporting that the first launch of the NASA SLS (Space Launch System) is slipping to mid-2022. Boeing is the primary contractor for SLS. SLS has received over $20 billion in funding. Each year the SLS program gets over $2.5 billion.

Boeing is also developing the crewed Starliner. During the August 2021 launch window 13 propulsion system valves got stuck and Boeing had to return the spacecraft back to factory. They are hoping to try again by mid-October. However, if the fixes are not fast and very smooth missing mid-October will push the next launch attempt into 2022. This is the second test launch to certify man-rating. There will need to be a lot of verifications that Starliner is really perfectly fixed to certify it as man-rated. There were major software errors on the first flight and now defective hardware before the second flight.

NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) awarded $4.3 billion for Boeing and $2.5 billion for SpaceX. NASA agreed to pay Boeing nearly $300 million extra for Starliner.

If SLS slips into 2023 and Starliner does not get deemed safe enough to transport astronauts then Boeing could be the prime contractor for over $30 billion of failing space programs. The SLS program has already been running for 11 years.

In 2010, the Constellation program was cancelled. This was basically the same contractors working to reconfigure Space Shuttle parts into an Apollo rocket configuration. U.S. Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Tuscaloosa, quickly dismissed a plan to spend $6 billion to fund commercial rocket developers to make an alternative to the Ares rocket.

“We cannot continue to coddle the dreams of rocket hobbyists and so-called ‘commercial’ providers who claim the future of U.S. human space flight can be achieved faster and cheaper than Constellation,” Senator Shelby said in February 2010.

The SpaceX Falcon 9 had a successful flight June 4 2010. There were test firings from late 2009 into the March 2010.

The Constellation program seemed to get about $12 billion from 2005-2010. There was also $2.5 billion paid to shutdown the program.

SpaceX Crew Dragon is about two years ahead of the Boeing Starliner, if Starliner can fly its first crewed mission by May 2022.

SpaceX Super Heavy Starship should have multiple orbital test flights for 2021 and 2022. In 2022, SpaceX will have major tests preparing the Starship Human Landing System for the moon. SpaceX Super Heavy seems certain to beat SLS to orbit.

If Boeing SLS first launch slips to 2023 or later, then SpaceX Super Heavy Starship could be on the moon before SLS gets its first launch.

The SpaceX Starship tests and developments started in 2019.

SOURCES- Wikipedia, NASA, SpaceX
Written By Brian Wang,