SpaceX is basically the first private company to transport NASA astronauts as soon as three months from now. The aim is more than guaranteed after Boeing‘s Starliner probe barely prevented a disaster in space on its orbital takeoff demo.
The target of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program (CCP) is to make sure that the United States is able to send its own astronauts into orbit and to the International Space Station (ISS). The space agency has, therefore, decided to contract two independent companies: SpaceX and Boeing. The later did actually try to convince the Congress to eliminate SpaceX back in 2014 and only award them the contract, but it fortunately failed.
Moreover, SpaceX was funded with less money than Boeing was, but the company run by Elon Musk ended up beating Boeing on the race to launch NASA astronauts to the ISS.
SpaceX For the Win In Spite of all the Opposition
For the most part of the decade, Congress, as well as multiple industry leaders and Boeing itself, have claimed to death that the Starliner spacecraft was definitely better and safer than anything built by SpaceX. They claimed that Boeing has a lot more experience in the spaceflight domain. However, numerous disastrous failures during Boeing’s recent Orbital Flight Test show the truth.
Back in the 1990s, Boeing, which was about to lose a competition to create an expendable rocket for the US military, purchased a McDonnell Douglas at the last second and put a Boeing sticker on the Delta IV rocket, which was created and built by MD.
The company then plotted to steal trade secrets from Lockheed Martin and utilized the stolen data to mislead the USAF about the real price of Delta IV, therefore, ending up cashing the more profitable of two possible contracts.
This is only to indicate the simple fact that Boeing is not that experienced in designing spacecraft than it actually acts like.
But Wait, There’s More!
Apparently, even though both NASA and Boeing peculiarly covered the information for the public for over two months, Boeing’s OFT Starliner spacecraft encountered a second significant software failure just before regression.
As per NASA and Boeing’s comments during a press conference that took place after the news about the second failure surfaced, after a warning panel addressed the issue in February 2020, a second Starliner software flaw was only discovered because the first failure made Boeing verify its code.
SpaceX has surely encountered its own major issues, but the company has already shown that it addressed the source of the error with the spacecraft’s second successful takeoff on a Falcon 9 rocket.
Furthermore, it is becoming almost impossible to logically claim that Boeing’s Starliner will be safer than SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, more so worth the 40 percent premium Boeing is asking from NASA and the US taxpayer.
As per Ars Technica’s Eric Berger, Crew Dragon’s debut astronaut launch is now set for late-April to late-May of this year. Currently, the bureaucracy is the reason for the uncertainty, and not the technical elements, as all Demo-2 mission hardware is ready for takeoff.
Because of the blend of similar software errors Starliner encountered throughout its first and only launch test, Boeing is now bound to review the whole software of the probe, before NASA will enable it to launch again.
Simply put, it would take a miracle, or NASA making a public parody of itself for Boeing’s advantage, for Starliner to transport astronauts before SpaceX.