NASA, Boeing Starliner launch to ISS on hold as spacecraft investigation continues

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

Boeing/John Grant

Boeing is hoping to launch its Starliner crew capsule for a second time in an try to dock with the International Space Station. Boeing’s first try way back in December 2019 failed to attain the proper orbit however gave it useful information. The firm appeared prepared to attempt once more, however its launch attempt was scrubbed Tuesday — the second delay in lower than per week. 

Engineers “detected unexpected valve position indications within the propulsion system” throughout a well being examine of the spacecraft after Monday’s electrical storms within the area, Boeing mentioned Tuesday. It’s unsure if the storms have been liable for the technical situation.

The firm and NASA thought of Wednesday as a doable goal for a brand new launch time, however the valve situation continues to hang-out the mission. “Engineering teams have ruled out a number of potential causes, including software, but additional time is needed to complete the assessment,” NASA said Tuesday evening. 

The spacecraft was moved off the pad and returned to a hangar (or “vertical integration facility”) on Aug. 4 and it is going to be “run through various procedures to help understand the issue,” in accordance to a short press release provided two days later

With the Starliner present process assessments, NASA says it is going to transfer ahead with a cargo launch to the ISS, facilitated by Northrop Grumman, which is scheduled in for Tuesday, Aug. 10. It’s unclear when Starliner is probably going to fly and there’s no new launch date at the moment. 

The later the launch comes, the extra scheduling bother the craft is anticipated to run into. It’s a busy time for the ISS, with the Northrop Grumman Cygnus launch and a SpaceX cargo resupply mission coming on Aug. 29. Starliner would want to be out and in earlier than the SpaceX automobile docks.

The mission was initially scheduled to take off Friday, however that was delayed due to an issue Thursday with a Russian ISS module firing its thrusters shortly after docking with the station. That knocked the area station round and compelled groups to consider the station’s standing.

“The International Space Station team will use the time to continue working checkouts of the newly arrived Roscosmos Nauka multipurpose laboratory module (MLM) and to ensure the station will be ready for Starliner’s arrival,” NASA mentioned in a July 29 assertion.

NASA will livestream the launch when it will definitely occurs.

When Starliner does lastly launch, it is going to carry off on a United Launch Alliance (ULA) Atlas V rocket. The capsule will likely be filled with round 400 kilos of crew provides and cargo. If all goes effectively, it’s going to dock with the area station about 24 hours later. Docking will even be coated dwell by NASA TV.

Software defects and a communications hyperlink downside led to a untimely finish to the unique Boeing take a look at flight in 2019, although the CST-100 Starliner capsule landed safely again on Earth. The upcoming Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT-2) mission is an opportunity for Boeing to completely vet its {hardware} and software program earlier than a crew of three American astronauts would fly on Starliner.

Both Boeing and SpaceX are a part of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, which is all about sending astronauts to the ISS from American soil. SpaceX has now delivered 10 astronauts to the ISS, and Boeing would love to catch up. But first, it will need to present that its Starliner can safely attain the ISS and return to Earth.

Starliner will spend between 5 and 10 days on the ISS earlier than bringing analysis samples again to Earth. Boeing will intention to carry the spacecraft again for a parachute touchdown within the desert of New Mexico.

“OFT-2 will provide valuable data that will help NASA certify Boeing’s crew transportation system to carry astronauts to and from the space station,” NASA said in a statement July 22 after concluding a flight readiness review.

The mission is a key step for NASA’s plans to run common crewed launches from the US, ending its reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft. Boeing can also be trying forward at its first crewed mission, Boe-CFT, which it had been hoping to launch throughout the subsequent six months. The delays with OFT-2 may imply an extended wait earlier than individuals fly on Starliner.

Follow CNET’s 2021 Space Calendar to keep up to date with all the newest area information this 12 months. You may even add it to your individual Google Calendar.    

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