Boeing spacecraft’s first crewed launch delayed again due to new issue

Boeing’s first Starliner mission carrying astronauts into area has been delayed once more — till not less than Might 21 — over a problem with the spacecraft’s propulsion system, the corporate stated on Tuesday.

Starliner’s mission carrying two NASA astronauts had been scheduled for liftoff from Florida final week, till a technical difficulty with its Atlas 5 rocket prompted a delay to Friday, Might 17 — the newest postponement for a program years not on time and greater than $1.5 billion over funds.

A brand new technical difficulty, now regarding Starliner itself, has prompted one other postponement to not less than subsequent Tuesday, Boeing stated in a press release.

“Starliner groups are working to resolve a small helium leak detected within the spacecraft’s service module,” Boeing stated, including that engineers traced the leak to a element on one of many propulsion system’s 28 management thrusters which might be used for maneuvering in Earth’s orbit.

Boeing has been growing Starliner for greater than a decade to offer NASA with a second U.S. spacecraft able to ferrying astronauts to and from the Worldwide Area Station. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule, constructed below the identical NASA program, first launched astronauts to area in 2020.

Starliner’s newest mission, known as the Crewed Flight Check, is because of be the ultimate take a look at earlier than the spacecraft is licensed by the U.S. area company to fly routine astronaut missions to the ISS. Boeing accomplished an uncrewed Starliner journey to the ISS in 2022 following years of technical and administration points.

NASA officers and Boeing engineers will run assessments and attempt to repair the helium leak earlier than the following doable launch window on Might 21 at 4:43 p.m. ET. Helium is used on the Starliner to pressurize the gasoline that powers the spacecraft’s thrusters for orbital maneuvering.

The Atlas 5 rocket that launches Starliner into area is constructed by the Boeing and Lockheed Martin three way partnership United Launch Alliance (ULA). Earlier than trying to launch Starliner final week, ULA found a defective valve on the Atlas 5 and rolled the rocket off the launchpad to switch the valve.

Sensors on Starliner first detected suspicious traces of helium contained in the propulsion system whereas the spacecraft was on the launchpad final week, however these detections didn’t elevate alarm to engineers on the time, in line with an individual briefed on the mission operations.

Boeing engineers investigated the helium detections whereas ULA was changing the defective valve on Atlas 5 and decided extra testing and scrutiny was wanted with the intention to meet the mission’s strict launch security standards, the individual stated.

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