July 21, 2024

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Another commercial party goes into space: ‘Space travel always remains risky’

Another commercial party goes into space: ‘Space travel always remains risky’

Boeing will fly into space. Not with the infamous Boeing 737 passenger plane, but with a real spacecraft called the Starliner. This could help the United States gain independence from Russia. “There is money to be made in space.”

A new spaceship developed by Boeing will make its first flight this week with astronauts on board. In recent years, the company has been working on the “Starliner”. The next night, around 4:30 Dutch time, astronauts Sunita Williams and Barry Wilmore will depart from Florida on the ship and orbit the Earth.

Why Boeing?

The mission was actually planned for 2018, but design errors caused one test flight after another to be delayed. And it didn’t stop there. In 2021, the flight was postponed five times, but just before departure, the fuel tanks’ valves did not work and the launch was still cancelled.

So the project actually costs hundreds of millions of dollars more than budgeted. Things are going wrong at Boeing anyway. Recently, a door panel fell off one plane, another plane’s engine failed and one of the company’s top executives left. “Fortunately, space travel is a completely different branch of the business,” says aviation expert from TU Delft Joris Melkert. “They also make parts for fighter jets, and they make incredible quantities.”

More dangerous than going back and forth to Marbella

The fact that NASA is now becoming a commercial party has to do with independence from Russia. After rockets to the moon and the Space Shuttle came at great cost, the United States briefly relied on Russia to send American astronauts into space. Now, with Elon Musk’s SpaceX and Boeing, there are once again “independent” parties that can send astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS).

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Melkert stresses that this doesn’t make it any less safe. “Commercial flights must also comply with all kinds of regulations. This mission is also to test the Starliner and its systems. Of course, space travel is always more risky than going back and forth to Marbella, it remains that way.” Rocket science. But that just doesn’t happen.”

Space tourism

Everything also happens under the supervision of NASA. “There is money to be made in space and companies are responding to that, while control of space remains with NASA,” Melkert says. “That seems like a good development to me.”

The aviation expert is not enthusiastic about commercial flights. “It’s also permitted, and there are people willing to pay for it. But it causes a lot of emissions in the upper air, where it’s more polluting. So we definitely shouldn’t be doing it on a large scale.”

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Another commercial party goes into space: ‘Space travel always remains risky’

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