Boeing’s first astronaut mission for NASA will not carry off this 12 months in spite of everything.
The firm had been aiming to launch Crew Flight Test (CFT), the first-ever crewed mission of its Starliner capsule, towards the International Space Station (ISS) someday in December. But technicians want extra time to handle just a few points recognized on Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT-2), an uncrewed jaunt to the ISS that Starliner made in May, NASA and Boeing representatives introduced as we speak (Aug. 25).
“Currently, we’re targeting a launch date as early as February of 2023,” Steve Stich, supervisor of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, mentioned throughout a name with reporters as we speak.
NASA and Boeing will possible shoot for early February, he and others on the decision added, figuring out that timeframe as a comparatively open window in an in any other case busy stretch for ISS operations. (The first few months of 2023 will see the launch of three different crewed missions to the orbiting lab, if all goes in accordance with plan — SpaceX’s Crew-6 flight for NASA and Ax-2 mission for Houston-based firm Axiom Space, and a Russian Soyuz flight — in addition to two robotic resupply liftoffs.)
Like SpaceX, Boeing holds a multibillion-dollar deal to fly astronauts to and from the ISS for NASA. SpaceX is already totally up and operating, having launched 4 operational crewed missions to the orbiting lab utilizing its Dragon capsule and Falcon 9 rocket. But Boeing is not there but.
The firm notched a giant milestone with OFT-2, an uncrewed shakeout cruise that confirmed Starliner can get safely to and from the ISS. But the six-day flight didn’t go completely easily, because the newly introduced CFT delay attests.
Post-flight evaluations revealed 4 important points requiring troubleshooting or further work, Mark Nappi, Starliner vice chairman and program supervisor at Boeing, mentioned throughout as we speak’s name.
One such situation concerned the untimely shutdown of two of Starliner’s orbital maneuvering and angle management (OMAC) thrusters. Investigators have decided that the issue possible resulted from an incursion of particles, the kind of which stays unclear, Nappi mentioned.
Starliner additionally skilled points with the smaller response management system (RCS) thrusters in its crew and repair modules throughout OFT-2, in addition to anomalously excessive strain readings in its thermal management system. And Starliner’s Vision-based Electro-optical Sensor Tracking Assembly (VESTA), which helped it rendezvous and dock with the ISS, did not behave precisely as anticipated, although it did carry out its important process effectively, Nappi mentioned.
Boeing has mapped out fixes for all of those points and is assured they’re going to be totally vetted and emplaced by early February, he added. For instance, the strain downside might be alleviated by eradicating some pointless filters within the thermal management system. And VESTA was accumulating extra knowledge than Starliner’s onboard computer systems might deal with, which might be addressed with a tweak to the capsule’s flight software program, Nappi mentioned.
“We looked at all these systems,” he mentioned. “There were areas that we needed to go do a little bit more work on the systems. And we plugged that into the plan, and that’s what moved us out by a month, five weeks or so.”
CFT will ship NASA astronauts Barry “Butch” Wilmore and Suni Williams to and from the ISS. It’s anticipated to final six days, the identical length as OFT-2. If all goes effectively with CFT, Starliner shall be cleared to begin flying operational astronaut missions for NASA.
OFT-2 was Starliner’s second crack at an uncrewed flight to the ISS. During the unique OFT, which launched in December 2019, Starliner suffered a variety of software program issues and received stranded in an orbit too low for a meetup with the station.
Mike Wall is the creator of “Out There (opens in new tab)” (Grand Central Publishing, 2018; illustrated by Karl Tate), a guide in regards to the seek for alien life. Follow him on Twitter @michaeldwall (opens in new tab). Follow us on Twitter @Spacedotcom (opens in new tab) or on Facebook (opens in new tab).