NASA and Boeing Starliner mission to the International Space Station postponed again, start uncertain

A Boeing CST-100 Starliner spacecraft sits atop a ULA Atlas V rocket in July 2021.

Boeing / John Grant

Boeing hopes to launch the Starliner crew capsule for the second time to dock with the International Space Station. Boeing The first attempt failed in December 2019 to reach the correct orbit, but it gave him valuable data. The company seemed ready to try again, but the files Start attempt aborted Tuesday – second delay in less than a week.

Engineers revealed. Unexpected valve position indications in the propulsion system “During a spacecraft health check after thunderstorms in the area on Monday, Boeing said Tuesday. It is uncertain whether storms are responsible for the technical problem.”

The company and NASA considered a potential target to start a new time on Wednesday, but the valve problem was still on the job.

“Engineering teams have ruled out a number of potential causes, including software, but it will take additional time to complete the assessment.” NASA said Tuesday night. There is currently no new release date.

The mission was supposed to start on Friday, but that was delayed because Thursday version with the Russian ISS unit They fired their missiles shortly after docking at the station. This destroyed the space station and forced the teams to assess the station’s condition.

“The ISS team will use the time to continue inspections of the newly arrived Roscosmos Nauka Multipurpose Laboratory Module (MLM) and ensure that the station is ready for Starliner arrival,” NASA said in a statement on July 29.

NASA will broadcast the launch when the time finally comes.

When the Starliner is finally launched, it will be launched on an Atlas V rocket from the United Launch Alliance (ULA). The capsule is filled with about 400 pounds of crew and cargo supplies. If all goes well, it will crash into the space station about 24 hours later. The docking will also be broadcast live on NASA TV.

Software bugs and a communication link issue caused the original Boeing test flight to be prematurely terminated in 2019, even though the Starliner CST-100 capsule landed safely on Earth. The upcoming Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission gives Boeing the opportunity to thoroughly examine its hardware and software before a crew of three American astronauts flies aboard the Starliner.

Both Boeing and SpaceX are part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which aims to send astronauts from US soil to the International Space Station. SpaceX has now delivered 10 astronauts to the International Space Station, and Boeing wants to catch up. But first you have to prove that Starliner can safely reach the International Space Station and return to Earth.

Starliner will spend five to ten days on the International Space Station before returning research samples to Earth. Boeing plans to return the spaceship to parachute into the New Mexico desert.

OFT-2 will provide valuable data that will help NASA certify the Boeing Crew Transportation System to transport astronauts to and from the space station. NASA said in a statement on July 22 After completing the readiness check.

The mission is a major step in NASA’s plans to conduct regular launches with crews from the United States to end its dependence on Russia’s Soyuz probe. Boeing is also looking forward to its first manned mission, the Boe-CFT, which is due to launch within the next six months. The delay in OFT-2 could mean waiting longer before people fly the Starliner.

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