DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Boeing stated on Oct. 27 that it will deduct an additional $185 million from its earnings to cover the costs of restoring service to its CST-100 Starliner commercial crew vehicle.
The charge was disclosed in the company’s second-quarter financial reports. The charge was triggered by “the second uncrewed Orbital Flight Test presently scheduled for 2022 and the most recent appraisal of remaining work,” according to them.
In January 2020, the business took a $410 million charge to cover the costs of completing a second uncrewed trip, which is estimated at the time. Due to software issues, the original OFT mission of December 2019 could not be completed.
OFT-2, Boeing’s second uncrewed test flight, was supposed to take place in early August. This was cleared up hours before liftoff when valves in the spacecraft’s propulsion system failed to open during a launch attempt.
Engineers discovered 13 valves that were locked shut, most likely due to nitric acid corroding the valves after nitrogen tetroxide propellant seeped through the valves and combined with moisture.
Discussing the Challenges
During a conference call with financial analysts, Boeing CEO David Calhoun mentioned the matter briefly. “As previously declared, Boeing and NASA teams have marked the most likely reason for failure of the valve on our commercial crew Starliner.
He went on to say, “They’re working on remedial and preventive activities.” “We’re looking into the possibility of launching the second Orbital Flight Test in 2022, pending hardware readiness, rocket manifest, and space station availability.”
On the Oct. 19 briefing, Boeing revealed why it took the original earnings charge: it promised to redo the uncrewed flying test at no cost to NASA. “There will be no further charges levied against the government as a result of this.”
As we prepare this vehicle, The Boeing Company will make sure we’ve addressed this,” stated John Vollmer, VP and program manager for Boeing’s commercial crew program.
He wouldn’t say whether these extra expenses will prohibit Boeing from ever turning a profit on the Starliner program, which it was awarded a $4.2 billion fixed-price contract to develop and operate by NASA in 2014. He stated, “I will say that we are 100 percent dedicated to executing our commitment with the government, and we intend to do so.”
Boeing’s difficulties contrast with SpaceX, NASA’s other commercial crew contractor, which is gearing up for its third operational crewed flight to the International Space Station on October 31st. Technical hiccups haven’t held down those plans, including a problem with the toilet on Crew Dragon, which SpaceX is fixing ahead of launch.