The stakes of a resounding failure for Boeing and NASA

The stakes of a resounding failure for Boeing and NASA
The stakes of a resounding failure for Boeing and NASA

The Boeing Starliner, currently docked with the International Space Station (ISS), was originally scheduled to return to Earth on June 14. However, this return has been postponed until at least June 26. This postponement is due to the need to resolve several urgent technical problems, including helium leaks and malfunctions of certain thrusters. According to Steve Stich, a NASA program manager, this extension will ensure the safety of the crew upon return. “We’re taking a little more time to work through what we’ve observed and to make sure we have all the plans in place to get the crew home,” he told a conference. press.

Astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, currently on board, will therefore have to spend around 20 days in space, more than double the duration initially planned. Fortunately, they have at least four months’ worth of food and other consumables.

Persistent technical problems

The Starliner has encountered several delays and technical complications over the years, with additional costs amounting to more than $1 billion for Boeing. Just after takeoff earlier this month, Boeing and NASA officials detected a valve leaking helium, which was the first in a series of leaks. In addition to this, five thrusters temporarily malfunctioned during the flight, although four of them were returned to service. The fifth was arrested for the remainder of the mission.

Increased risk in the event of non-resolution

If the problems are not resolved within 45 days, the maximum length of time the ship docked with the ISS, alternative measures will have to be taken. Among the options being considered is the possibility of using SpaceX, Boeing’s rival, to bring astronauts back to Earth.

Implications for Boeing and the aerospace sector

The Starliner’s continuing problems could have repercussions not only for Boeing, but also for confidence in the U.S. aerospace industry, once dominated by the giant. The multiple similar incidents, including helium leaks, indicate a potential systemic problem in the design, manufacturing, testing or system engineering.

Onwards to a safe return

Despite these challenges, Boeing and NASA officials remain optimistic about Starliner’s ability to safely return the crew to Earth. If all goes well in this test, the Starliner’s successful return on June 26 could strengthen its position with the space agency, after a series of problems with its commercial aircraft division. Indeed, Boeing also faced critical incidents with its planes last month, highlighting a difficult time for the company.

In short, the fate of the Starliner hangs on a series of critical technical resolutions. The outcome of this mission could either restore some confidence in Boeing, or push NASA to rethink its partnerships for future manned missions. Meanwhile, the world watches, hoping for a safe return of astronauts and a positive resolution to these lingering technical challenges.

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