Boeing Starliner test flight delayed until 2022


NASA officially postponed the launch of its Orbital Flight-Test 2 until next year, as it continues to work on an oxidant isolation valve issue on Boeing’s Starliner spacecraft, the agency said.

The agency said in a blog post that it continue to assess the potential launch windows for the mission: “The team is currently working on opportunities in the first half of 2022 while awaiting the preparation of the material, the rocket manifesto and the availability of the space station”, according to the message.

Steve Stitch, director of NASA’s commercial crew program, added that it was a “complex problem”, affecting parts of the spacecraft that were difficult to access, which required “a methodical approach and solid engineering to effectively examine “.

The Boeing Starliner is one of two vehicles designed to transport passengers to and from the International Space Station as part of the NASA Commercial Crew Program; SpaceX’s Crew Dragon is the other. NASA has instructed each company to initiate an unmanned test flight, followed by a crewed test flight as part of the process. So far, Starliner has only performed one unmanned flight, but suffered software glitches before it could reach the ISS.

Boeing had hoped to fly the Starliner without passengers during the summer on a second unmanned flight attempt, but hours before takeoff the company discovered problems with some of the spacecraft’s propulsion valves and the NASA cleaned up the launch.

Earlier this week, NASA announced that it is instead reassigning two astronauts that are supposed to fly on upcoming Starliner flights to an upcoming SpaceX flight. Nicole Mann and Josh Cassada will participate in SpaceX’s fifth crewed mission to the International Space Station, currently scheduled for fall 2022.

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