Saturday, July 20, 2024

Updates from Starliner: Good news on engines and return postponed again


NASA and Boeing held a new press conference to get updates on the CFT (Crew Flight Test) mission status of the Starliner capsule. During the conference, it was reported that test launches of the payment devices were carried out over the weekend and it seemed to have gone fairly well.

Furthermore, it was stated that the return of the Starliner capsule has been postponed again from June 22 to June 26. Detachment from the International Space Station is scheduled for 04:10 Italian time on June 26, and landing in the New Mexico desert is scheduled for 10:21 Italian time on June 26.

Steve Stich, director of NASA’s Commercial Crew Program, said ground teams handling Starliner took a break over the weekend due to the amount of work in recent days. In fact, they are still analyzing data related to the Starliner launch and its journey to the International Space Station. Landing and landing opportunities occur approximately every four days, so if they miss June 26, the backup date will be July 2.

Problems with the payment system

Testing was conducted over the past weekend using seven of the eight existing engines. The eighth, which is not in operation, is the one that encountered problems during the approach to the International Space Station, and will not be used even during the return from space. However, the issue has not been reported, nor if this issue is known.

The remaining seven thrusters behaved correctly, and Stitch also stated that during the 2022 OFT2 test, there were more problems, although docking was simpler. In fact, on June 6, access to the ISS was extremely difficult and the thrusters turned on more times than expected.

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Before testing the thruster ignition, they also analyzed the engines using Canadarm 2, the space station’s robotic arm. In addition, they measured the engines’ performance by detecting when

Steve Stitch subsequently stated, regarding the five helium leaks from the propellant pressure system, that they remained under control and were not a problem. He said that after launching the batches, the leakage of helium V decreased by about 50%. To return from space, they would need seven hours of helium supply, and they currently have about 70 hours available.

Finally, another valve in the oxidant storage system in the service unit was damaged, but after some analysis they figured out how to deal with the problem and it was not a problem. This is a new issue that did not occur on the 2022 OFT2 flight.

Upcoming operations

Currently, the teams preparing for the capsule’s return to New Mexico have been sent home, while they were initially supposed to remain stationed at the White Sands site. They will now be summoned four days before the capsule returns.

NASA and Boeing also stated that the “Safe Haven” tests conducted with the International Space Station were conducted specifically because of the trust they gained with the Starliner. During this test, astronauts enter the capsule and make it independent of the International Space Station. Furthermore, two astronauts from Expedition 71 entered the Starliner to perform some habitability tests.

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