NASA announces new launch date for Boeing’s Starliner

The Starliner spacecraft is seen sitting on top of the Atlas V rocket. A series of issues have plagued the maiden launch of the crewed Starliner mission and both the Starliner and Atlas V are in the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida. (File Photo)

CAPE CANAVERAL SPACE FORCE STATION – Despite a number of delays, NASA announced it has selected a new launch date for the first flight of Boeing’s Starliner.


What you need to know

  • The new launch date is currently Saturday, June 1
  • The mission is plagued with problems

The Starliner will launch Saturday, June 1, at 12:25 p.m. ET from Space Launch Complex-41 at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida, NASA said in an announcement Wednesday evening.

The US space agency also stated that other launch attempts are being monitored: Sunday, June 2, Wednesday, June 5 and Thursday, June 6.

This comes as a series of delays have dogged the Boeing Crew Flight Test mission, which will see a crewed Starliner send two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station.

One of the most troublesome issues that grounded the mission is a small helium leak in the Starliner spacecraft’s service module that was discovered days after the spacecraft’s first launch attempt on Monday, May 6.

In the new announcement, NASA stated that teams are still working on the problem.

“Work continues to assess Starliner’s performance and redundancy following the discovery of a small helium leak in the spacecraft’s service module. As part of this work, and unrelated to the current leak which remains stable, the teams are completing a follow-up assessment of the propulsion system to understand the potential impact of the helium system on some Starliner return scenarios. NASA will also conduct a Delta-Agency Flight Test Readiness Review to discuss work performed since the last CFT launch attempt on May 6, and to evaluate issue closure and flight rationale prior to the next attempt, as part of NASA’s readiness assessment process. The date of the upcoming Flight Test Readiness Review is under consideration and will be announced once selected,” NASA said.

Officials from NASA, Boeing and United Launch Alliance, whose Atlas V rocket will launch the Starliner, will hold a conference call Friday morning to provide more insight for the next launch.

The mission is plagued with problems.

Trying to take off

The launch of Starliner’s first crewed flight has suffered a number of setbacks, starting with the first launch attempt on Monday, May 6.

NASA astronauts Cmdr. Barry “Butch” Wilmore and pilot Sunita “Suni” Williams were in the Starliner waiting to be sent to the International Space Station when the launch was canceled just minutes before liftoff.

A problem was discovered with a pressure control valve on a liquid oxygen tank on the Centaur upper stage of the Atlas V rocket.

Both Wilmore and Williams are quarantining in Houston until a new launch date is given and then they will fly back to Florida.

Boeing had scheduled a second launch attempt for Friday, May 17 at 6:16 PM ET, but it was canceled after a small helium leak was discovered in the Starliner’s service module.

There was hope that an attempted launch would take place on Tuesday, May 21 at 4:43 PM ET, but it was postponed to Saturday, May 25 at 3:09 PM ET so that Boeing would have more time to assess the situation. leak.

On Tuesday evening, May 21, NASA issued a press release stating that the Saturday, May 25 attempt would be postponed.

“NASA, Boeing and ULA are abandoning the Saturday, May 25 launch attempt for NASA’s Boeing Crew Flight Test. The team met for two days in a row to assess the reasons for the flight, system performance and redundancy. “Work continues in these areas, and the next possible launch opportunity continues to be discussed,” NASA said.

The Starliner spacecraft still sits atop the Atlas V rocket in the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex-41 on Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida after being rolled back for repairs following the initial launch.

This Starliner spacecraft called Calypso had problems before. During the first Orbital Flight Test in December 2019, while the launch was going well, there was a glitch in the mission expiration timer, causing the spacecraft to enter an orbital insertion fire at the wrong time and consume too much fuel.

This meant that while it was in stable orbit, it could not rendezvous with the space station.

In 2014, Boeing received $4.2 billion from NASA to send people to the International Space Station. In that same announcement, NASA gave SpaceX $2.6 billion.

“The contracts include at least one crewed flight test per company with at least one NASA astronaut on board to verify that the fully integrated rocket and spacecraft system can launch, maneuver into orbit and dock with the space station, and to validate that all of its systems are performing as expected. Once each company’s test program is successfully completed and the system has achieved NASA certification, each contractor will fly at least two and as many as six crewed missions to the space station also serve as a rescue boat for astronauts aboard the station,” NASA said at the time.

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