Boeing, NASA Further Delay Starliner Crew Flight Launch

Boeing and NASA announced further delay in the much expected launch of Starliner Crew Flight to the International Space Station following certain emerging issues with the capsule.

Boeing has been developing its Starliner spacecraft after winning nearly $5 billion in contracts under NASA’s Commercial Crew Program. Starliner’s first crewed flight was earlier prepared for an April launch.

During a media teleconference, the aerospace and defense major and the government agency provided an update on the Boeing Crew Flight Test or CFT- the first flight with astronauts on the company’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft.

The Starliner crew flight test, which was scheduled for July 21, was to carry two NASA astronauts to the ISS. According to NASA, CFT is the final flight test prior to regular crewed missions to the space station on the next-generation system.

But managers of the program said they took the decision to stand down on the July launch attempt for the CFT to take time to address recent emerging issues.

Boeing recently found out various new problems with Starliner, including by-pass valve on the active thermal control system, one issue that affects the safety of its parachute systems, and another involving a specific tape that was discovered to be flammable.

In a statement last week, NASA and Boeing had revealed these emerging issues, which were expected to be resolved before Boeing begins fueling operations on the spacecraft in June.

They then said the teams were working resolution paths on those issues. The teams were to remove and replace a by-pass valve on the active thermal control system, which is located on the Starliner service module and is used to flow coolant into the system to cool the onboard avionics.

Further, engineers were working to evaluate any elevated risk from a specific type of tape used on the spacecraft to protect wires from chafing. Although the tape is commonly used in spaceflight, the adhesive properties of the tape could present a flammability risk under certain conditions.

NASA and Boeing also were working to reassess Starliner’s parachute system margins based on new data reviews as part of the ongoing design certification process.

For the Crew Flight Test, the Starliner spacecraft will launch on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, returning around eight days later in White Sands, New Mexico. The flight will carry two NASA astronaut test pilots, Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, on the demonstration flight to prove the end-to-end capabilities of the Starliner system.

In May last year, Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner, carrying about 500 pounds of NASA cargo and crew supplies and more than 300 pounds of Boeing cargo, had reached the ISS after two failed attempts since 2019.

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