July 7, 2022

Boeing launches Starliner capsule for astronaut on unmanned test mission

Boeing launches Starliner capsule for astronaut on unmanned test mission

The Space ship He soared into the sky at 6:54 p.m. ET Thursday, aboard an Atlas 5 rocket that lifted off from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. If all goes well, the Atlas V rocket will move the capsule into orbit, after which it will detach and spend about 24 hours flying freely through orbit before arriving at the International Space Station and making gentle contact, and docking with the station, where it is set to stay for less than a week .
The Starliner proved to be a difficult program for Boeing, which originally hoped the spacecraft would be operational in 2017, but It has been plagued by delays and development interruptions. The first attempt of this test flight, called OFT-1, was cut short in 2019 due to a problem with the Starliner watch on board. The error caused the thrusters on board the capsule to misfire, causing it to derail, and officials decided Bring the spacecraft home Instead of continuing the job. It took over a year to clear this and a series of other software problems.
Recently, it was Starliner Boxed with valve issues. When the spacecraft was moved to the launch pad in August of 2021, a pre-flight inspection revealed that the main valves were stuck in place, and engineers weren’t able to immediately troubleshoot the problem.

In the end, the capsule had to be returned from the launch pad. When engineers were unable to repair it on site, it eventually had to be sent back to the Boeing plant for more thorough troubleshooting.

Valves have since become a constant source of contention for the company. According to a recent report from Reutersthe subcontractor that makes the valves, Alabama-based Aerojet Rocketdyne, has been at odds with Boeing over the root cause of the valve problem.

Boeing and NASA differ, according to the report and comments from NASA officials during recent press conferences.

Mark Naby, Boeing’s vice president and program manager for Starliner, noted in a press conference last week that their investigation indicated moisture had entered the valves and caused “corrosion” and “binding.” This led the company to devise a short-term solution, and to create a disinfection system, which includes a small bag, designed to keep out corrosive moisture. NASA and Boeing say they are comfortable with this solution.

“We’re in really good shape to go into this system,” Steve Stitch, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Manager, said last week.

But this may not be the end of it. Boeing revealed last week that it may eventually have to redesign the valves.

“There are a few more tests that we want to do, and based on these results, we will solidify the kind of changes we will be making in the future,” Naby said. “We will likely know more in the coming months.”

If Boeing goes ahead with a more comprehensive redesign of the valves, it’s not clear how long that will take or whether it could delay Boeing’s first astronaut mission, which, at this point, is years behind schedule. According to public documents, the cessation of work with Starliner has cost the company about half a billion dollars.

Meanwhile, SpaceX, once thought to be the underdog competitor in NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, has already launched five NASA astronaut missions in addition to two tourism missions. The inaugural launch of his spacecraft, Crew Dragon, became the first to carry astronauts into orbit from US soil since the space shuttle program was retired in 2011.