In the end, the capsule had to be returned from the launch pad. When engineers were unable to fix it on site, it was eventually sent to the Boeing plant for more thorough troubleshooting.
Boeing and NASA differ, according to the report and comments made by 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 Commercial Crew Program at NASA, 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’ll make 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 already launched five 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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