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Boeing Starliner faces leaks on first crewed ISS mission

Boeing Starliner faces leaks on first crewed ISS mission

Starliner Leaks

NASA and Boeing are assessing the potential impacts of helium leaks on the Starliner Spacecraft during its first astronaut-crewed mission to the International Space Station (ISS). The mission, known as the Crew Flight Test (CFT), is carrying NASA astronauts Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams. So far, five helium leaks have been detected in the Starliner’s propulsion system.

One leak was discovered before the launch, while four more were identified during the spacecraft’s journey to the ISS.

Engineers have determined that Starliner has enough helium to support its return trip, with a supply that can sustain up to 70 hours of free flight activity after undocking from the station. In addition to the helium leaks, Starliner has experienced issues with its reaction control system (RCS) thrusters.

Out of the 28 thrusters, five showed problems during the flight to orbit. Four were quickly reactivated, but one remains out of service.

Mission teams are analyzing the thruster performance and plan to fire all 28 RCS thrusters after undocking to gather more data.

Starliner mission faces technical issues

Despite these challenges, Wilmore and Williams have been conducting tests on their spacesuits, Starliner’s seats, and the spacecraft’s systems. They have assessed air flow, performed “safe haven” checks, and carried out other essential evaluations.

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The mission’s return date is currently set for no earlier than June 18, with Starliner expected to land in the southwestern United States. NASA and Boeing are working together to ensure the best possible outcome for the mission and to collect valuable data for future Starliner flights. Steve Stich, NASA commercial crew program manager, commented on the leaks, saying, “What we need to do over the next few days is take a look at the leak rate there and figure out what we go do relative to the rest of the mission.

Dina Contella, NASA ISS deputy program manager, added, “The teams are still working through what are the best ways to go about testing and preparing for undock and reentry.”

Despite the challenges faced, the astronauts have praised Starliner’s performance.

“The spacecraft was precise, more so than I would have expected. We could stop on a dime, so to speak,” said Wilmore during a call with NASA leadership. Mark Nappi, Boeing vice president and commercial crew program manager, expressed optimism, stating, “Our experienced test pilots have been overwhelmingly positive about their flight on Starliner, and we can’t wait to learn more from them and the flight data to continue improving the vehicle.

As the mission continues, NASA and Boeing remain focused on ensuring the safety of the astronauts and the success of the Starliner program.

The data gathered from this flight will be crucial in shaping the future of commercial crew missions and expanding human spaceflight capabilities.

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