Boeing’s Starliner charges approach $900 million

Science

LAS VEGAS — Boeing announced Oct. 26 it will take yet another charge against earnings because of delays in the CST-100 Starliner commercial crew program, bringing the total losses recorded by the company to date on the program to nearly $900 million.

In a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, Boeing announced a charge of $195 million recorded in its fiscal third quarter it blamed on Starliner. It comes after a $93 million charge reported in its second quarter financial results July 27.

The latest charge brings the total losses announced by Boeing on the Starliner program to $883 million dating back to early 2020, when the company took a $410 million charge after a first uncrewed test flight, called Orbital Flight Test (OFT) was cut short by technical problems. The company took an additional $185 million charge in October 2021 when valve problems delayed the OFT-2 mission.

The company blamed the charges in the last two quarters in part on increased costs to get Starliner ready for its first flight with astronauts on board, the Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission, now scheduled for no earlier than February 2023. That will allow operational, or post-certification, missions for NASA to begin as soon as the fall of 2023.

Boeing said the major factor in the latest charge was a change in schedule for those post-certification missions. “The increase recorded in the third quarter of 2022 was primarily driven by timing of the three future post certification missions which are now assumed to be completed by 2026 based on NASA’s revised launch plans,” the company stated in its SEC filing. “We had previously assumed that the post certification missions would be completed by 2024.”

NASA officials have stated that, once Starliner is certified after the CFT mission, it will alternate with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon, which has been performing all of NASA’s commercial crew missions since being certified after the Demo-2 test flight in mid-2020. Each company would thus conduct one commercial flight for NASA per year.

Boeing’s commercial crew contract that NASA awarded in 2014 includes six post-certification missions. NASA awarded the same amount to SpaceX but has twice added missions to the contract, bringing the total to 14 as of the end of August.

Boeing did not discuss in detail commercial crew charge in the press release it issued about its quarterly financial results, stating only that it recorded losses on commercial crew as well as four aircraft programs in its Defense, Space and Security business unit. The company also did not mention the commercial crew charge in an earnings call.

The company did caution in the SEC filing that this latest charge may not be the last for the Starliner program. “Risk remains that we may record additional losses in future periods,” it stated.

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