Big Disappointment For Boeing Starliner Launch

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On Its First Trip to the ISS, The Boeing Starliner Won’t Get to the ISS.

This morning the first mission to the ISS for the Boeing Starliner lifted off. Then it flew itself into the wrong orbital pattern. It’s hard to understate how critical that error was. It means that the entire point of the mission—to successfully dock Starliner with the ISS—won’t happen. That is bad news for Boeing. There’s just no other way of putting it. 

My Bias

Here’s the thing. As a journalist (yes, even a journalist who writes for a website called Space Porn), I feel it’s important to admit my biases. Hence, I’m compelled to confess that I’m a bit torn when it comes to Boeing. On the one hand, I’m from Washington state, and Boeing has done more for my state’s economy in the last century than any other single corporation during that time. The wonderful lifestyle I enjoy in this state is, in part, because of the jobs and innovations that Boeing brings to Washington. Therefore, I want them to succeed, because when Boeing succeeds, Washington grows. 

On the other hand, I have some big concerns with the Boeing Starliner project. First, just like SpaceX (the other major corporation developing a craft for NASA’s Commercial Crew program), Boeing has faced many major delays during Starliner’s development. This is problematic because since 2011 we’ve been buying rocket rides to the ISS from Russia at around $82 million per seat. NASA’s commercial crew program was supposed to have solved that issue by now.

Things were looking up a little earlier this year as SpaceX successfully did what Boeing tried to do today. As recently as a couple of weeks ago, both companies said they were confident crewed launches would happen in early 2020. So this failure on Boeing’s part puts that idea in serious doubt for them.

The Boeing Starliner Cost Issue

Then there’s the cost. A few weeks ago, NASA released details regarding the cost of Starliner seats. Boeing wants to charge NASA about $90 million per seat. Conversely, SpaceX currently sells space on Falcon 9/Dragon missions for around $60 million. In short, as much as I’m rooting for Boeing, it seems right now like it’s the 1920’s and they’re trying to sell us a Studabaker Roadster for $1700 while SpaceX has a perfectly good Model T ready to go for $300.

Regardless of all that, however, the failure today really represents a failure for the American space program as a whole. 

Also, even if the mission was a failure, the launch itself was pretty cool. Check it out:

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Brandon Humphreys

Brandon Humphreys

I'm a wizard. I write stuff and it goes from my head into yours - Magic! Apart from that, I am the Senior Editor for Space Porn, a veteran, a rock guitarist, and a teacher.

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