Stuck valves on Boeing’s Starliner keep critical space station test flight on hold

Boeing’s Starliner capsule remains to be below restore as the corporate works to determine what is going on on with its defective valves.  

Following a large number of delays, Starliner has no new launch date set for its Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT-2) mission to the International Space Station as Boeing groups proceed to “work around the clock” to repair the valve points that grounded the craft final week and proceed to delay a liftoff, the company announced in a statement today (Aug. 12). So far, groups have repaired 9 of the craft’s 13 problematic valves. 

“Over the past couple of days, our team has taken the necessary time to safely access and test the affected valves, and not let the launch window dictate our pace,” John Vollmer, Starliner vp and program supervisor, mentioned within the assertion.

Related: Everything you need to know about Boeing’s Starliner OFT-2 mission

After an preliminary delay attributable to a malfunction of Russia’s incoming Nauka module on the International Space Station proper earlier than Starliner was scheduled to launch on July 30, NASA and Boeing pushed the launch to Aug. 3. However, this launch date then slipped by one other 24 hours earlier than being delayed indefinitely when engineers noticed hassle with valves in Starliner’s propulsion system. They discovered points with 13 valves that weren’t opening as designed. 

On Aug. 9, the corporate put out an announcement sharing that mission groups had to this point gotten seven of the 13 problematic valves again to working as meant. Today, Boeing revealed that now 9 of these 13 valves “are now open and functioning normally after the application of electrical and thermal techniques to prompt and command them open,” Boeing mentioned within the assertion. They added that “similar techniques are now being applied to the four valves that remain closed.” 

However, the corporate doesn’t but know the reason for the valve malfunction. 

While Boeing’s groups are working “to return functionality to a number of oxidizer valves on the CST-100 Starliner’s propulsion system, the company is simultaneously working with its NASA and Aerojet Rocketdyne partners to determine the cause of the valve issues discovered during prelaunch checks,” the assertion reads. 

Starliner is Boeing’s hopeful astronaut taxi; the spacecraft was developed below a contract awarded by NASA’s Commercial Space Program, alongside SpaceX with its Crew Dragon capsule. OFT-2 would be the firm’s second try at an uncrewed test flight to the station after its first mission, OFT-1, failed to reach the orbiting lab in December 2019

Starliner will keep on the space station for 5 to 10 days earlier than returning to Earth, NASA officers have mentioned. Following the profitable completion of the OFT-2 mission, Boeing has mentioned that it’ll launch human crews aboard the capsule to the space station. Previously, the corporate has aimed to launch its first crewed Starliner mission by the tip of this year. 

However, at the moment, they don’t have a launch date for OFT-2, which precedes an eventual crewed launch. 

“The company will work with NASA and United Launch Alliance to confirm a new launch date when the spacecraft is ready,” the assertion reads. 

If Starliner would not launch quickly, the spacecraft may lose its space station parking spot to an incoming SpaceX Dragon cargo ship, which is at the moment scheduled to launch on Aug. 28 and can spend as much as two months docked on the station. To make issues extra sophisticated, the United Launch Alliance (ULA), whose Atlas V rocket will launch the OFT-2 mission, may be preoccupied in early September with another Atlas V launch for the U.S. Space Force

Email Chelsea Gohd at [email protected] or comply with her on Twitter @chelsea_gohd. Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

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