NASA and Boeing face technical challenges that prevent the capsule from returning to Earth

NASA and Boeing face technical challenges that prevent the capsule from returning to Earth
NASA and Boeing face technical challenges that prevent the capsule from returning to Earth

THE Starliner delay is due to thruster problems and a maintenance spacewalk.

Thruster problems

The return of the Starliner capsule is postponed due to persistent technical problems. NASA said the capsule, which was originally scheduled to return after a week on the ISS, will not return until June 26.

During the final phase of its approach to the ISS on June 6, five of Starliner’s 28 reaction control thrusters stopped working, although four of them eventually came back online. “ We want to give our teams time to check the data, analyze and make sure we are ready to go home said Steve Stich, manager of NASA’s commercial crew program, during a conference.

Starliner: tests and repairs in progress

To understand and correct these failures, Boeing and NASA conducted intensive tests, including hot firing of the thrusters. One of the thrusters was not activated due to abnormally low pressure, observed upon docking. At the same time, a helium leak was discovered in one of the thrusters, increasing the complexity of the necessary repairs.

Ground teams continue to model helium leaks at the Marshall Space Flight Center in Alabama. “ Saturday was a great day to understand that the helium leaks had decreased and the thrusters had recovered », added Steve Stich, thus giving a positive signal regarding the resolution of the ongoing problems.

Impact on spacewalks

The mission’s schedule was also influenced by the need to reschedule a spacewalk scheduled for June 24. Initially scheduled for June 13, this release was delayed due to the discomfort experienced by astronaut Matt Dominick in his space suit.

The spacewalk has now been awarded to astronauts Tracy Caldwell Dyson and Mike Barratt, who will have to wait for Starliner to leave to carry out the extravehicular activity. “ If June 24 spacewalk is delayed again, Starliner undocking will be prioritized said Dana Weigel, ISS program manager.

The Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission is an important milestone for Starliner certification, aiming for an operational mission in 2025. Despite technical challenges, the mission achieved 77 of the initial 87 objectives, and the remaining 10 will be evaluated during undocking and of landing.

Boeing and NASA continue to resolve technical issues to ensure Starliner’s safety and efficiency “, said Mark Nappi, vice president of Boeing’s commercial crew program. Delays and adjustments are indeed part of development missions, requiring flexibility and rigor.

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