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Image Credit: United Launch Alliance.

Valve issues on Boeing’s Starliner capsule might delay the launch for several months

The valve issues in the propulsion system of the OFT-2 (Orbital Flight Test 2) CST-100 Starliner capsule, might delay the launch of the uncrewed spacecraft for several months. Boeing and NASA yesterday, August 13, 2021 announced, that the capsule will be uninstalled from its Atlas V N22 launch vehicle and returned to Boeing’s Commercial Crew and Cargo Processing Facility in Cape Canaveral, Florida.

During prelaunch checks ahead of the spacecraft’s second orbital flight test, 13 valves in the Starliner’s propulsion system failed to open. These valves, which connect to thruster for abort and in-orbit manoeuvring, are critical for the successful execution of the mission.

The company tried to open the valves on site at the United Launch Alliance’s Vertical Integration Facility (VIF), where the Atlas V rocket had been stacked ahead of its launch and to which the rocket and spacecraft had been rolled back, once it was obvious that the mission could not be launched on schedule.

Boeing was able to open nine of the 13 valves using different techniques, however an in-depth analysis of the Starliner’s propulsion system needs to be conducted, to make sure that the capsule is ready for its uncrewed test flight to the International Space Station (ISS).

Even if Boeing is able to open the valves within the next few weeks, the launch still might be postponed for several months, possibly until early 2022, depending on range availability and free docking ports at the ISS.

Atlas V N22 and Starliner at the launch pad in Cape Canaveral. Image Credit: United Launch Alliance.
Atlas V N22 and Starliner at the launch pad in Cape Canaveral. Image Credit: United Launch Alliance.

Sources:

https://blogs.nasa.gov/commercialcrew/2021/08/13/nasa-boeing-to-move-starliner-to-production-facility-for-propulsion-system-evaluation/

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