Boeing (NYSE: BA) successfully returned its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft from orbit last week. Is this achievement significant enough to warrant a long-term investment in Boeing?
The Boeing Starliner’s tale began in 2011 when NASA awarded funding to three businesses to develop a spacecraft that would transport people to the International Space Station. Despite the fact that the development competition dragged on, SpaceX was nevertheless able to accomplish the assignment and fly the passenger version of the Dragon spacecraft for the first time in 2020.
Sierra Space is still developing its tiny shuttles in preparation for testing, while SpaceX is flying routinely. Boeing Company (BA) is in the second position in this race, but it is still a long way behind the winner. Nonetheless, the Boeing Starliner has been in space, although in an unmanned form.
Boeing Company (BA) has had a string of setbacks: in 2019, Starliner was unable to dock with the International Space Station, and in 2021, the launch was canceled owing to fuel valve issues. Two of the 12 shunting engines failed on the current voyage, forcing the docking to be postponed for a day, indicating that the problem has not yet been totally rectified. SpaceX, on the other hand, faced similar issues in the past. Boeing asserts that it is ready to launch human spacecraft.
Is Starliner, however, required now that Dragon exists and the ISS has been given a ten-year mission? Only a competitive launch price and benefits over SpaceX’s plan can be the solution to this issue.
It’s worth noting that Starliner is superior to Dragon in a lot of respects. The Starliner capsule is reusable (up to ten re-launches, compared to just five for the Dragon), and the ship was built for both land and sea landings, whereas the Dragon was redesigned for splashdown.
As a result, Dragon has less room and can only transport four passengers into space, whereas Starliner can carry five. Simultaneously, Starliner is intended to be a flexible spacecraft that can be launched using a variety of launch vehicles, including the SpaceX Falcon 9.
Consequently, the Starliner is an excellent spacecraft for the next generation. The Starliner’s maiden crewed flight is slated for late 2022, and if successful, Boeing Company (BA) will get an order for five further launches by 2026.
However, the supremacy of the SpaceX Starship may serve as a growth engine for the Starliner project. After receiving Starship, SpaceX will lose interest in the Dragon program’s development. As a result, frequent transportation to near-Earth orbit will be provided by Boeing Company (BA) and Sierra Space, with Boeing having the most sophisticated product in this market.