Launch of Starliner test flight slips to no earlier April 2 – Spaceflight Now

The Boeing Starliner crew module is hoisted throughout the Industrial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at NASA’s Kennedy House Middle in Florida on Jan. 14, 2021, to be mated with the service module. Credit score: Boeing/John Proferes

The launch of the following take a look at flight of Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule has been delayed to no sooner than April 2 after staff changed spacecraft avionics items broken in an influence surge throughout testing.

Boeing’s second Orbital Flight Take a look at, or OFT-2, mission will confirm the Starliner spacecraft is able to carry astronauts into orbit for the primary time later this yr.

In a press release Feb. 17, Boeing and NASA mentioned the launch of the OFT-2 mission has been rescheduled from March 25 to no sooner than April 2. The eight-day delay was attributable to an influence surge throughout last checkouts on the spacecraft on the Kennedy House Middle in Florida.

Technicians swapped out avionics items affected by the facility surge, Boeing mentioned. “We proceed to make sure product security of our spacecraft and we’re addressing any rising points in a well timed method.”

NASA mentioned the facility surge was attributable to a “floor assist tools configuration difficulty.”

Final month, groups contained in the Industrial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility at Kennedy mated the Starliner spacecraft’s crew module and repair module. Your complete spacecraft was just lately moved into a special space of the ability to obtain its load of hazardous propellants.

The Starliner’s thrusters eat a poisonous mixture of hydrazine and nitrogen tetroxide for in-space maneuvers. The capsule’s abort engines use the identical potent mixture of propellants.

Boeing mentioned it’s prepared for a mission rehearsal utilizing the Starliner flight {hardware} and flight software program. The top-to-end take a look at will simulate a Starliner mission from launch to docking with the Worldwide House Station, and from undocking by means of touchdown, a rehearsal Boeing didn’t carry out earlier than the Starliner’s first orbital take a look at flight in 2019.

The OFT-2 mission is a repeat of Boeing’s OFT-1 take a look at flight in December 2019. Software program issues on the OFT-1 mission prevented the Starliner spacecraft from docking with the area station, forcing a untimely touchdown below parachutes at White Sands House Harbor, New Mexico.

“NASA continues to work alongside Boeing to organize for this primary mission of 2021,” mentioned Steve Stich, supervisor of NASA’s industrial crew program, in a press release. “The Boeing and NASA teamwork on all elements of flight preparation together with last certification, hazard evaluation, and software program testing is extraordinary. Despite the fact that this uncrewed flight take a look at to the Worldwide House Station is a key milestone on the trail to the primary Starliner crewed mission deliberate for later this yr, we are going to fly once we are prepared.”

Engineers have checked off about 95% of the suggestions recognized by a joint NASA and Boeing overview group that investigated the issues that plagued the OFT-1 mission.

“We admire the numerous work NASA is endeavor forward of launch,” mentioned John Vollmer, Starliner’s vice chairman and program supervisor at Boeing. “We’re absolutely engaged within the company’s overview course of to make sure confidence within the spacecraft.”

Boeing said earlier this month that engineers accomplished “requalification” of the Starliner software program code, setting the stage of the end-to-end rehearsal as a result of start quickly.

The Starliner spacecraft is one in all two new crew capsules designed to ferry astronauts to and from the area station. SpaceX’s Crew Dragon capsule flew with astronauts for the primary time final Could, however Boeing’s software program issues delayed the Starliner program greater than a yr.

NASA contracted with Boeing and SpaceX to develop the brand new crew capsules, ending U.S. reliance on Russian Soyuz spacecraft for astronaut transportation providers.

Assuming the week-long OFT-2 take a look at flight goes nicely, Boeing hopes to launch the Starliner’s first Crew Flight Take a look at with a three-person crew as quickly as September. The three astronauts will dock with the area station, the place they’re anticipated to spend one-to-two weeks earlier than coming again to Earth.

After the Crew Flight Take a look at, NASA will certify the Starliner to fly on operational crew rotation missions to the area station. Boeing is on contract with NASA for at the least six of these, every carrying 4 astronauts and lasting as much as seven months.

As soon as the Starliner spacecraft is fueled, Boeing will switch the capsule to United Launch Alliance’s Vertical Integration Facility at Cape Canaveral House Drive Station. Cranes there’ll hoist the spacecraft on prime of its Atlas 5 launch car subsequent month, a few weeks earlier than the scheduled April 2 launch date.

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Observe Stephen Clark on Twitter: @StephenClark1.

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