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Boeing Starliner Probably Won’t Fly Anywhere This Year, Problems Still Not Fixed

By this time, America should have had two private spacecraft serving its needs: the SpaceX Crew Dragon, and the Boeing Starliner. But whereas the former is already up and running, and just made history by taking an all-civilian crew to space for three days, the latter didn’t even leave the launchpad the last time it tried to fly.
Boeing Starliner and the Atlav V rocket 8 photos
Starliner arrives at the Vertical Integration FacilityStarliner arrives at the Vertical Integration FacilityStarliner arrives at the Vertical Integration FacilityStarliner is lifted atop the Atlas V for the second uncrewed test flightStarliner is lifted atop the Atlas V for the second uncrewed test flightStarliner is lifted atop the Atlas V for the second uncrewed test flightStarliner is lifted atop the Atlas V for the second uncrewed test flight
Developed at about the same time as the Crew Dragon, the Starliner made its first attempt to prove it is astronaut-safe in December 2019. It flew uncrewed and the flight went just fine, until the ship reached orbit and a software glitch made it believe it was somewhere it was not. The planned docking with the International Space Station was scrubbed, and the capsule returned back to Earth, where it made an impressive solid ground airbag landing.

Back to the drawing board the Boeing engineers went, and in August 2021 they were ready to try again. The capsule was perched on top of an Atlas V rocket and moved onto the pad, from where it gloriously failed to launch. To blame this time was an “unexpected valve position” in the propulsion system which caused the cancellation of the flight.

At the time, people working on the project said they “will take whatever time is necessary to ensure Starliner is ready for its important uncrewed flight test.” Apparently, that time extends far beyond 2021. As per Kathy Lueders, head of NASA's Human Exploration and Operations Mission Directorate (HEOMD), another launch of the Starliner will probably be attempted next year.

According to Space.com, engineers are still trying to get to the bottom of the issue that caused the 2021 failed launch, but even if they were to complete their work by the end of the year, there are also a lot of other launches planned that may interfere with scheduling.

So far, Boeing said little about the valve problem, but there’s increased talk about how the company may replace the service module altogether and stop trying to fix the existing one, something that is already proving to be a daunting task.

 
 
 
 
 

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