NASA and Boeing expect March 29, 2021 as the earliest possible date for their Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT-2), an important qualifying demonstration mission in their ongoing space program for commercial crews. Boeing is the second company selected by NASA to build and qualify a human space launch system for the transportation of astronauts to and from the International Space Station. and it's still working on certifying its vehicle while SpaceX, The other selected company has already flown its first active service mission.
Boeing originally flew the first version of this mission last December. The company's Starliner CST-100 crew starship launched as planned aboard a ULA missile which did its part of the mission perfectly. However, the capsule had a bug with its onboard mission timer and due to a temporary blackout in ground communications, it couldn't be corrected in time to save enough fuel to keep Starliner on track to meet with the space station, which was one of the main objectives of the demonstration flight.
Boeing still managed to successfully re-enter, descend, and restore the Starliner capsule – all good tests for other key mission objectives. However, the company and agency eventually decided that the OFT test would need to be repeated before a final crewed demonstration mission takes place.
After a lengthy and thorough investigation, Boeing and NASA made changes to their software development process and partnership to ensure future errors such as those affecting the mission timer did not occur. The partners had originally hoped to complete this mission sometime this month, about a year after the first attempt to fly again, but the schedules have slipped since then, and most recently the first quarter of next year was the earliest likely window.
NASA hopes to have the Boeing spacecraft certified so that it can rely on not just one, but two providers of commercial transportation services for astronauts in low earth orbit. This diversified mix of providers should also help accelerate commercial activity in orbit, which is focused on human space travel.