Boeing's next Starliner test flight could be delayed for months

The capsule is going back to the factory for 'deeper-level troubleshooting' of a valve problem.

Joe Skipper / reuters

It could be months before Boeing takes another stab at a Starliner test flight. The company is detaching the capsule from an Atlas V rocket and taking it back to the factory to fix an issue with four propulsion system valves. The problem led to Boeing scrapping the planned second test flight on August 3rd.

Boeing will conduct "deeper-level troubleshooting" of the valves at its Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at the Kennedy Space Center. Engineers attempted to fix the problem while the Starliner was still on top of the rocket — they managed to repair the nine other valves. Boeing, NASA and Atlas V maker United Launch Alliance will need to find a new launch date when Starliner is ready.

However, as SpaceNews notes, the next opportunity for a test flight could be months away. Boeing may have to wait until after the October launches of NASA’s Lucy asteroid mission and SpaceX’s Crew-3 mission, as well as the return of the Crew-2 spacecraft. So, even if Boeing can fix the valves quickly, it could be November before Starliner can get back on the docking port.