NASA and Boeing will give Starliner launch to space station another chance this month – Orlando Sentinel

Boeing is set to complete a years-in-the-making milestone this month by launching its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft to the International Space Station.

The uncrewed flight dubbed Orbital Test Flight-2 is targeting a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket atop liftoff from Cape Canaveral Space Force Station Thursday, May 19 at 6:54 p.m. The rocket and payload are expected to to be deployed to Space Launch Complex- 41 today and a launch readiness review will take place on May 11.

This is a reshoot of a December 2019 flight that attempted but failed to dock with the station. Starliner was one of two vehicles along with SpaceX’s Crew Dragon to receive contracts from NASA to provide ferry service to astronauts from US launches.

“This is a really significant milestone and our continued goal of having two American crew-lift capabilities to the ISS,” said NASA’s Kathy Lueders, associate administrator for the Operations Mission Directorate. space during a press conference on Tuesday. “Robust crew services are really important to our sustained commitment to our research – the science and technology development that we do on the ISS.”

Before it can launch, SpaceX must open a parking spot at the ISS with the return of Crew-3 on Crew Dragon Endurance, which is expected to undocking early Thursday and splash down off the coast of Florida just at 12:37 a.m. Friday if the time permits. This will leave Crew-4 to welcome Starliner to the station a few weeks later.

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“I can tell you that the space station team is ready to provide support and we’re excited to have another vehicle on board,” said NASA’s ISS program manager Joel Montalbano. “This mission is a major stepping stone…We consider this a historic flight.”

While SpaceX has taken a leap forward, having already launched its fourth operational crew rotation flight last month, Boeing has fallen behind after a review of the 2019 launch that NASA dubbed a “high-visibility close call.” led to a recommendation of 80 changes to the Commercial Crew Program offering. which covered hardware, software and operations.

Last August, Boeing, after resolving all 80 issues, had to follow through with its retest before a stuck valve issue halted the attempt and forced the spacecraft to be returned to Boeing’s factory at the Kennedy. Space Center to resolve the issue.

Boeing believes it has identified the problem causing valve sticking – excess moisture that reacts with an oxidant to cause corrosion – and has developed mitigation factors to address it, including sealing more spaces around the valves and by opening and cycling them. closed before launch to ensure they move as planned.

“We are confident that we understand the problem with the rigorous investigation that the team has undertaken,” said Michelle Parker, head of Boeing. “There’s been a lot of work to really go through all the details and make sure we have this now.”

If successful, a crewed test flight could follow this year, paving the way for Boeing to drop SpaceX on crew rotation missions.

“I think there are a lot of exciting things happening in space and as space professionals we are always excited about everything that happens there. We definitely want to be a part of that,” Parker said. “Our focus is really on getting the mission done and being able to deliver that capability to our client.”

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