Boeing launches Starliner capsule for astronaut on unmanned test mission

oh Spatialship It 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. After the rocket launched the capsule into orbit, the spacecraft fired its thrusters to steer it in the right direction. Boeing officials confirmed the Starliner’s “orbital insertion” – an indication that the spacecraft was on track – about half an hour after liftoff. The Starliner will spend approximately 24 hours in free flight before arriving at the space station, where it is expected to establish a smooth connection and dock with the station. The forecast is that he will stay less than a week.
The Starliner has proven to be a difficult program for Boeing, which originally expected the spacecraft to be operational in 2017, but He was plagued with developmental delays and disruptions. The first attempt at this test flight, called OFT-1, was aborted in 2019 due to a problem with the onboard Starliner watch. The error caused the propellers on board the capsule to fail, causing it to derail, and officers decided to Take the spaceship home Instead of continuing to work. It took over a year to fix this and a host of other software issues.
Recently it was Starliner Packed with valve issues. When the spacecraft was moved to the launch pad in August 2021, a pre-flight inspection revealed that the main valves were stuck in place and engineers were unable to fix the problem immediately.

In the end, the capsule had to be returned from the launch pad. When engineers were unable to repair it on site, it was eventually returned to the Boeing factory for further troubleshooting.

Since then, the valves have become a constant source of contention for the company. According to a recent report by Reutersthe subcontractor that manufactures the valves, Alabama-based Aerojet Rocketdyne, is 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 at recent press conferences.

Mark Naby, Boeing vice president and Starliner program manager, noted at a press conference last week that his investigation indicated that moisture had entered the valves and caused “corrosion” and a “sticking”. This led the company to devise a short-term solution and 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 are in good shape to enter this system,” Steve Stitch, NASA commercial crew program manager, said last week.

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

“There are a few more tests we want to do, and based on those results, we will solidify what kind of changes we make in the future,” Naby said. “We will probably know more in the coming months.”

If Boeing does a more comprehensive redesign of the valves, it’s unclear how long it will take or if it could delay Boeing’s first astronaut mission, which at this point is years behind schedule. According to public documents, the stoppage of work with Starliner cost the company about half a billion dollars.

Meanwhile, SpaceX, once considered NASA’s commercial crew program’s weakest competitor, has already launched five NASA astronaut missions, in addition to two tourist missions. The maiden launch of its spacecraft, Crew Dragon, became the first to take astronauts into orbit from US soil since the space shuttle program was retired in 2011.

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