Company representatives and NASA officials said the Boeing CST-100 Starliner capsule is still on its way to achieving its critical test launch on May 19.
starliner It was supposed to take off on an unmanned mission to International Space Station Orbital Flight Test 2 (OFT-2) is called August 2021. But standard pre-launch checks revealed that 13 of the 24 oxidizer valves in the Starliner service module’s propulsion system were stuck.
So Boeing and NASA rolled out the Starliner and its United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket for troubleshooting. Within a few months, investigators found Possible cause of valve problem: The oxidizing reaction of nitrogen tetroxide (NTO) with moisture in the air, resulting in the production of nitric acid. The nitric acid then reacts with the aluminum housing of the valves, producing corrosion that impairs the valve’s function.
Boeing representatives and NASA officials said during a call with reporters today (May 3) that this initial diagnosis was on the money. They added that the mission team has succeeded in addressing the problem since then.
“Very proud of the Starliner team and the NASA team for the past eight months,” said Steve Stitch, NASA’s Commercial Crew Program Manager, during today’s call. “It’s been a tough eight months, I can tell, but it’s been very satisfying because we’ve solved the problem of the oxidizer isolation valves as we head toward launch.”
Multilayer valve repair. For example, technicians blocked a “potential moisture path” in the valves’ electrical connectors, explained Michael Parker, vice president and deputy general manager of Boeing Space and Launch, during today’s call. She added that the team is now also dehumidifying the valves using nitrogen gas.
“And then, in addition, we loaded the NTO later,” Parker said. “And we have added — operationally, we have added valve rotation every two to five days after loading until launch time, to ensure the valves are still working.”
Boeing also gave the OFT-2 Starliner a new service module, mating this component to the crew capsule on March 12.
NASA officials said that if all goes according to plan on OFT-2, the Starliner will rendezvous with the International Space Station about a day after launch and will spend five to 10 days docking with the station.
As its name suggests, OFT-2 will be Starliner’s second crack on an uncrewed test mission to the International Space Station. The first attempt, which occurred in December 2019, was cut short at Starliner Suffered a number of software glitches He was unable to meet the station.
Boeing holds a contract with NASA to transport astronauts to and from the International Space Station with Starliner. The capsule cannot begin carrying the crew until it makes an uncrewed test flight to the orbiting laboratory; The company also hopes to conduct its manned test flight before the end of the year.
SpaceX He also holds a NASA commercial crew contract. Elon Musk recently launched the agency’s fourth operational astronaut mission, which is known as Crew 4. The four astronauts for SpaceX’s Crew-3 flight are currently aboard the station but will return to Earth early Friday morning (May 6), if all goes according to plan.
Mike Wall is the author of “AbroadBook (Great Grand Publishing House, 2018; illustrated by Carl Tate), a book on the search for extraterrestrials. Follow him on Twitter Tweet embed. Follow us on Twitter Tweet embed or on Facebook.