NASA has indefinitely delayed the return of the Starliner spacecraft and its astronauts. Boeing is risking its future flights

  • The Starliner arrives on an eight-day test mission that will likely remain in low-Earth orbit for more than a month.
  • Boeing needs more time to analyze spacecraft failures, NASA requires two spacewalks

No return date. On Tuesday, NASA announced a new planned date for the return of the Starliner spacecraft: June 26. However, on Friday night it canceled its plans to remove the capsule without setting a new target date. Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft arrived on an eight-day test mission and could remain in low Earth orbit for more than a month, but could return to Earth in the event of an emergency aboard the International Space Station.

Progress error. One reason for this unspecified delay is that mission engineers need more time to investigate faults in the Starliner’s propulsion system.
The misbehavior of five engines prevented the spacecraft from docking with the International Space Station on June 6. Additionally, five helium leaks and a damaged propellant valve were found in the service module.

More time for data analysis. Although there is enough helium to return and a spare valve to replace the damaged one, NASA has given its and Boeing engineers more time to analyze the spacecraft’s failure.
Not only to ensure the safety of the two astronauts, Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, but also to collect as much data as possible from the service module, which will burn up in the atmosphere and will not land with the capsule. Unlock spacewalks.

In addition to collecting data for future Starliner flights, NASA also acknowledged that it will open the ship’s way back so as not to further delay various activities planned by other astronauts on the space station. Two spacewalks are planned in the coming days: the first on Monday, June 24 and the second on Tuesday, July 2. In addition to carrying out maintenance, NASA will use these EVAs to study whether microbial life exists outside the space station, one of its most common experiments. 45 day limit. Because the spacewalk coincides with Independence Day, the Starliner likely won’t return until after July 4. However, there is a deadline for its return: July 21, since the ship is only scheduled to spend 45 days at the International Space Station.

This is the first manned Boeing Starliner test mission. It is the final step in certifying commercial spacecraft for operational missions in the next six months, like the ones SpaceX’s Crew Dragon spacecraft has flown since November 2020. For Boeing to obtain this certification, extensive flight analysis will be required. .

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