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Boeing says its Starliner will be easy to refurbish

Published Jan 17th, 2020 10:10PM EST
boeing starliner
Image: NASA/Bill Ingalls

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SpaceX has made a name for itself by producing space-faring hardware that is easily refurbished. The company’s Falcon rockets can be reused multiple times, reducing the turnaround time between launches and lowering costs. Now, with the battle between Boeing and SpaceX heating up, Boeing is boasting that its own Starliner crew capsule will be easy to refresh for subsequent trips into space.

As SpaceflightNow reports, Boeing’s engineers are incredibly confident that Starliner will need very little maintenance between trips into space. That’s great news for NASA, but only if it proves to be true.

SpaceX and Boeing are locked in a race to be the first to deliver a crew-capable spacecraft for NASA. NASA is tired of paying for seats on Russian rockets and wants to be able to send astronauts into space whenever it wants. SpaceX and Boeing were both expected to have their spacecraft delivered by this point, but unfortunately, delays have mounted.

Recently, a Boeing Starliner test flight to the International Space Station was cut short after it became apparent that the spacecraft was, well, glitching out. According to Boeing and NASA, the spacecraft’s internal clock fell out of sync, and that caused the Starliner to burn more fuel than it should have. Because of this, it didn’t have enough fuel to make it to the International Space Station and it had to come back down to Earth without completing its primary objective.

Despite this, Boeing says the test went well in other respects, and that while the test flight was uncrewed, would-be crew members would have been able to correct the glitch and keep the mission on track if it had been a real-world crewed trip to the ISS.

Boeing really wants (and needs) Starliner to be a home run for NASA. Bragging about how easy it will be to refurbish the spacecraft between trips is nice and all, but we’ve still yet to see Starliner even make it to the space station, so we’ll have to take all of this with a hefty helping of salt.