Boeing’s Starliner valve issues remain, still no date set for space test-flight

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Boeing’s Starliner crew capsule isn’t having a very good time. Its first flight into space ended with a software error that torched the test Boeing was conducting, the follow-up test was first delayed by a Russian software error that nudged the International Space Station (ISS) out of place, and then another fault, this one with a set of valves on the craft, sent the capsule back for additional maintenance.

Matters haven’t improved, yet. Boeing is still attempting to figure out what’s up with the oxidiser valves on the craft. Since this is rocket science, we reckon there’s probably not a lot of percussive maintenance going on.

Starliner III: The Valvening

NASA’s chief of human spaceflight operations, Kathy Lueders, had an update of sorts on the progress of Boeing’s crew capsule. She said that “…the team’s making great progress on further troubleshooting.” But there’s potentially some nastier work ahead. Troubleshooting has been ongoing but so far investigators and engineers have only been working on the outer side of the valves. It’s possible that they’ll have to dig a little further in and physically remove the oxidiser valve from the Starliner in order to resolve the problem.

If this removal takes place, then it’s likely that Boeing will repurpose one of its other Starliner units for the upcoming Orbital Flight Test-2 (OFT2) test — when it takes place, that is. No new date has been set, but it’s probably not going to be this year. NASA’s Lueders said that “My gut is that it would probably be more likely to be next year, but we’re still working through that timeline.”

It’s possible that Boeing will get its second shot some time between 3 January and 22 February 2022 — which is when there’s time for a craft to be sent to dock with the International Space Station.

Source: Ars Technica

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Brett writes for Stuff's digital platform and edits Stuff's print magazine, in between reading science fiction and every Batman comic he can get his hands on.

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