Starliner Prepared for Upcoming Crewed Test Flight Attempt

Following extra inspections of the spacecraft’s parachutes and an impromptu payload swap, NASA and Boeing say they are prepared for another try to launch the company’s CST-100 Starliner with two NASA astronauts on board.

Officials stated at a briefing held here on May 31 that they were not addressing any issues with the Starliner spacecraft or its Atlas 5 launch vehicle in advance of the Crew Flight Test (CFT) mission, which is set to launch at 12:25 p.m. Eastern on June 1. There is a 90% probability of suitable weather for both the launch and a backup opportunity on June 2, according to forecasts.

Following the May 6 scrub of the previous launch attempt, engineers had been addressing a helium leak discovered in a spacecraft thruster. A “design vulnerability” in the spacecraft’s propulsion system that, under unusual conditions, would prevent the spacecraft from deorbiting was also discovered during that study.

A readiness review for agency flight tests Plans to address the helium leak and resolve the propulsion system problem were approved on May 29. Officials expressed their confidence that the mission would not be jeopardized by the helium leak during the briefing.

The NASA commercial crew program manager, Steve Stich, stated, “It’s a really, really small leak, and it’s well within the margin that we have,” adding that they could handle the leak even if it became 100 times worse while in flight. “We came to the conclusion that flying the mission, which we can do safely, is the best course of action.”

“It is safe, and that’s why we determined that we could go fly with what we have,”  said Mark Nappi, vice president and program manager for commercial crew at Boeing.

A potential problem observed after the May 19 launch of Blue Origin’s New Shepard suborbital vehicle was also addressed in the assessment. During the descent down to Earth of the crew capsule, one of the three parachutes on that voyage failed to fully open. Given that Starliner’s parachute system makes use of comparable parts, Stich expressed concern over it. He complimented Blue Origin for informing the government, Boeing, and SpaceX about the problem, given that all three companies utilize comparable parachutes.

He said that a cutter intended to cut a line controlling the reefing failed, causing the parachute to become trapped during one stage of “reefing,” or the slow inflating of the parachute. The parachutes of Starliner are cut using a similar device.

The test data for the cutters on Starliner’s parachutes was reviewed by the engineers again. After 160 tests, “we’ve never seen an issue with any of our cutters,” he declared. We went ahead because all of the tests on cutting the reefing line was excellent. We have a sound reason for taking off.

Additionally, NASA has changed out part of the goods that Butch Wilmore and Suni Williams, two NASA astronauts, will be traveling on Starliner with. The ESA is deploying a replacement pump for the International Space Station’s urine reprocessing system after the station’s existing pump failed on Wednesday.

According to Dana Weigel, program manager for the NASA ISS, the pump is part of a system that turns urine waste into potable water. Without it, the staff at the station would have to store pee instead, using the small number of bags and tanks that are available. The pump, which weighs roughly 70 kg, will take the place of two suitcases that would have carried clothing and toiletries for the station’s staff, according to her. She mentioned that the crew had access to “generic” materials on the station that can replace the items in those baggage.

Wilmore and Williams had been informed about the investigation into the helium leak and propulsion system design vulnerability, according to NASA astronaut Mike Fincke, who is assigned to Starliner-1, the spacecraft’s first operational mission and serves as a backup for the CFT mission. Fincke also endorsed the actions taken by NASA and Boeing to address the issues.

He remarked, “I think if you ask Butch and Suni directly, and I can answer for them, they feel very comfortable and confident that we’ve chosen a good path forward,” “We are excited for launch and we have confidence in this mission.”

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