Boeing’s Starliner Capsule and Crew Marooned in Space

Boeing is desperately seeking a success story in space for its Starliner project that is several years behind schedule with cost overruns while its commercial airline manufacturing operations are in disarray following multiple airplane calamities that resulted in a public relations disaster. As Boeing struggled to repair damage to its reputation, there were numerous manufacturing and management problems revealed that are plaguing the company.

Issues facing the overall airline industry and the U.S. Senate hearing on “Boeing’s Broken Safety Culture” (video) with a massacre by whistleblowers were covered in “Airline Pilots and Planes Falling Out of the Friendly Skies” published (Twitter thread) on Apr. 28. A new whistleblower stepped forward this week who is an ex-Spirit AeroSystems ($SPR) employee claiming to have witnessed manufacturing and maintenance malpractice while at the company. Speaking out against the airline industry has become a deadly business.

Another Boeing whistleblower found dead – Fox News, May 3


Boeing’s ($BA) stock price has not recovered from its 80% plunge following a $446 all-time high in 1Q19 and the pandemic panic in 1Q20, and it’s currently trading at 60% below that high at $182. I will include a technical analysis chart of Boeing’s stock at the end of this article. The following presentation provides a brief synopsis of Boeing’s problems before its Starliner space capsule, and two astronauts turned out to be marooned on the International Space Station (ISS) this month due to malfunctions within the Starliner CST-100 (headline image).

The End of an Era: Boeing’s Struggle to Regain Trust – DeCode, Jun. 23


Meanwhile, SpaceX is having unprecedented success with the development of a reliable space taxi service with reusable booster rockets to execute NASA projects, transport astronauts to the ISS, deploy satellites, and deliver miscellaneous payloads for the private sector. NASA backed Boeing’s Starliner project to have a second space vehicle available for destinations that include the space station and deep space missions with the Artemis space launch system for a return to the moon and to put humans on Mars and beyond.

Boeing Starliner Space Capsule Faces a Shaky Commercial Future… “Boeing started developing Starliner in 2014 for NASA’s Commercial Crew program, designed to create new spacecraft to take astronauts to the ISS after the Space Shuttle program was canceled. NASA originally offered contracts worth up to $6.8 billion to Boeing and Elon Musk’s SpaceX to fly astronauts to the space station… then use their spacecraft to generate additional profits from other customers, like space tourists. Since debuting its Crew Dragon capsule, Elon Musk’s SpaceX, has flown nine crewed flights for NASA, and has had four flights with private astronauts, with more planned this year. Meanwhile, setbacks delayed Boeing’s first flight with people by roughly seven years and racked up around $1.5 billion in extra costs… now that Starliner is finally ready, it may be too late. If the ISS is retired by 2030 as planned, Boeing will, at most, only fly six more missions for NASA… ‘Right now, the focus is on the six missions that we have on contract with NASA… the private astronaut missions are of an interest later in the decade.’ Boeing could find it difficult to fund a commercial space project in the near future. The company had a cash outflow of $3.9 billion in the first quarter of this year as it worked to fix the 737 Max plane’s manufacturing shortcomings. A Boeing spokesperson says that ‘Starliner remains a priority.’ The company ‘has made significant investments in the program, and we will continue to fulfill our contractual obligations’… Though it was meant to be a commercial space venture… a smooth Starliner launch probably won’t be enough to fix the program’s flagging business case.” – BNN Bloomberg, May 1

Graphic of Starliner

Graphic of Starliner Capsule via BBC


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Starliner has experienced technical problems and launch delays for years. Its first successful crewless test mission launched in 2022, and it finally left the launchpad with astronauts on Jun. 5, 2024. The two crew members are NASA veterans Suni Williams and Butch Wilmore with 500 days logged in space between them. There were last-minute malfunctions that scrubbed Starliner’s first two crewed launch attempts that included problems with oxygen valves on the Atlas V rocket from Boeing’s United Launch Alliance (ULA) and a helium leak within the capsule’s propulsion system. It was determined that a faulty seal on the thruster module failed to keep helium inside and did not require a mechanical repair. Helium is used to push propellent to the thruster systems that are used for maneuvering in space and slowing down for reentry into Earth’s atmosphere. Four additional leaks developed during the mission while docking with the ISS, and five of the 28 maneuvering thrusters cut out during the approach.

NASA again pushes back Starliner’s return to Earth – CBS News, Jun. 25


The two astronauts have spent nearly a month on the ISS while engineers try to work out problems with Starliner in what started out as an eight-day mission. It remains unclear when they will return to Earth. A Boeing spokesperson said they “adjusted the return of Starliner crew flight test until after two planned spacewalks on June 24 and July 2” and that they “currently do not have a date for the return, and will evaluate opportunities after the spacewalks.” If Starliner is not deemed safely operational, the astronauts will likely hitch a ride with the crew on SpaceX’s Dragon spacecraft that is currently docked at the station. As a side note, the ISS retires in around 2030, and NASA awarded an $843 million contract for SpaceX to build a “Deorbit Vehicle” that will intentionally destroy the station in a controlled descent through Earth’s atmosphere.

No planned date to return to Earth for two NASA astronauts… “The two NASA astronauts were scheduled to return on June 14. However, the pair has no set date to return to Earth as their return has been delayed multiple times. In a statement, Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said, ‘We are taking our time and following our standard mission management team process,’ according to ABC News report.” – Economic Times, Jun. 27

S&P slashed Boeing’s credit outlook on Apr. 25 with a rating that hovers just above junk status, and Fitch revised Boeing’s outlook to negative on Apr. 26. The stock is still not a buy in the near-term.

$BA Boeing Company monthly chart as of Jun. 27, 2024 close…

Boeing monthly chart as of Jun. 27, 2024 close - Technical Analysis by TraderStef


Let’s close today with a view of Earth for flat Earthers to consider.

SpaceX deploys GOES-U weather satellite with view of Earth – VideoFromSpace, Jun. 26


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Boeing’s Starliner Capsule and Crew Marooned in Space

Boeing’s Starliner Capsule and Crew Marooned in Space