May 13, 2022

Boeing considers redesigning problematic valve that has kept Starliner from flying NASA astronauts

Posted by in categories: Elon Musk, space travel

Though Boeing may redesign the capsule’s problematic valves before a crewed flight.

With Boeing’s next Starliner crew capsule launch attempt fast approaching, the company is considering redesigning the capsule’s propulsion valves, due to issues that have so far stopped the company from launching crewed flights to the ISS and competing with SpaceX, a report from *CNBC* reveals.

Boeing is developing the Starliner spacecraft thanks to a roughly $5 billion contract it was awarded under NASA’s Commercial Crew program. The next launch attempt, called OFT-2, is scheduled for next Thursday, May 19.

If the launch is successful, the uncrewed Starliner will then aim to dock with the International Space Station roughly a day later, on May 20.

Up until now, several issues have delayed the development and the first crewed flight of Starliner. In 2019, a software malfunction prevented the first orbital test flight from reaching the ISS after launching to orbit aboard an Atlas V N22; last August, a propulsion valve issue was noticed before the second launch attempt. 13 of the 24 oxidizer valves responsible for Starliner’s movement in orbit were damaged by corrosion caused by humidity at the launch site.

First, Boeing wants to do a little more testing\.

Boeing is examining whether to redesign the propulsion valves on its Starliner crew capsule, a crucial system that has kept the company from flying astronauts for NASA — and competing with Elon Musk’s SpaceX.

Starliner is the spacecraft that Boeing has been developing under NASA’s Commercial Crew program, having won nearly $5 billion in contracts to build the capsule. But Starliner’s development has run into several obstacles. A software malfunction cut short the first uncrewed orbital flight in 2019, and a propulsion valve problem was identified before launching the second attempt last August.

A valve redesign is definitely on the table, Mark Nappi, Boeing’s vice president and Commercial Crew program manager, said during a news conference Wednesday. Once we get all the information that we need, we’ll make that decision.

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