Boeing is making a third attempt to launch its Starliner capsule to the International Space Station

The capsule, called the spacecraft, launched at 6:54 p.m. ET Thursday from Cape Canaveral Space Station in Florida. If all goes well, the Atlas V rocket will put the capsule into orbit, after which it detaches and spends about 24 hours flying freely through orbit before arriving at the International Space Station and making a smooth connection, docking with the spacecraft, where it is determined. Stay less than a week.
On board for this mission will be some supplies for astronauts already aboard the International Space Station, as well as a model in a spacesuit called RosieRosie the Riveter after World War II.
But “if all goes well” has proven difficult for the programme, which Boeing had originally hoped to start operating in 2017. It has been plagued by delays and disruptions in development. The first attempt on this test flight, called OFT-1, was halted in 2019 due to a problem with the Starliner watch on board. The error caused the propellers on board the capsule to malfunction, causing it to derail, and the officers decided to bring the spacecraft home rather than continue working. It took over a year to resolve this and a host of other software issues.
Recently, the Starliner has been filled with valve problems. 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 solve 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 sent to the Boeing plant for more thorough troubleshooting.

Since then, valves have become a constant source of contention for the company. According to a recent Reuters report, the subcontractor that makes 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 during recent press conferences.

Mark Naby, Boeing’s vice president and program manager for Starliner, noted in a press conference last week that his investigation indicated that moisture entered the valves and caused “corrosion” and “bonding.” 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 a good shape to get into this system,” Steve Stitch, director of the NASA Commercial Crew Program, said last week.

But this may not be the end of it. 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 these results, we’ll solidify the kind of changes we’re making in the future,” Naby said. “We will likely know more in the coming months.”

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

Meanwhile, SpaceX, once considered the weakest competitor to NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, has launched six NASA astronaut missions, as well as two tourism missions. The inaugural launch of its spacecraft, Crew Dragon, became the first to take astronauts into orbit from American soil since the space shuttle program was retired in 2011.

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