Atlas 5 launches Starliner on second uncrewed test flight

Up to date 10 p.m. Japanese with feedback from postlaunch briefing.

KENNEDY SPACE CENTER, Fla. — Boeing’s CST-100 Starliner spacecraft is on its technique to the Worldwide Area Station on a crucial, long-delayed uncrewed check flight of the business crew automobile.

An Atlas 5 N22 rocket lifted off from Area Launch Advanced 41 at Cape Canaveral Area Pressure Station at 6:54 p.m. Japanese Could 19. The Starliner spacecraft, formally designated Spacecraft 2 by Boeing, separated from the dual-engine Centaur higher stage quarter-hour after liftoff, performing a 40-second orbital insertion burn 16 minutes later to position the spacecraft right into a steady orbit.

At a postlaunch briefing, NASA and Boeing officers mentioned they have been investigating the failure of two of 12 aft-facing Orbital Maneuvering and Angle Management (OMAC) thrusters through the orbital insertion burn. A thruster in one in all 4 “doghouses” or pods on the service module failed after one second, at which level the software program switched to a second thruster in that doghouse. That thruster shut down after 25 seconds. A 3rd thruster then took over for the remainder of the burn.

“The system is designed to be redundant and it carried out prefer it was speculated to,” Mark Nappi, Boeing vice chairman and business crew program supervisor, mentioned on the briefing. “Now the crew is working the why, as to why we had these anomalies happen.”

Nappi and Steve Stich, NASA business crew program supervisor, performed down the difficulty, noting that the OMAC thrusters are used just for a couple of extra phasing burns to carry the spacecraft near the ISS, however not throughout docking itself. They might not be used once more till the deorbit burn on the finish of the mission.

“We’ll go have a look at the information and attempt to perceive what occur, after which from a redundancy perspective, can we get better these thrusters,” Stich mentioned. As a result of these thrusters already carried out one phasing maneuver after the orbital insertion burn with out issues, he mentioned it wasn’t crucial to resolve the issue earlier than upcoming maneuvers.

Aside from the the thruster subject, “every part else appeared actually good,” mentioned Nappi. “The spacecraft is in glorious situation.”

Starliner will method the ISS over the following day, with docking scheduled for about 7:10 p.m. Japanese Could 20. The spacecraft will stay on the station for at the very least 4 to 5 days for numerous exams, in addition to transferring roughly 225 kilograms of cargo from the spacecraft and loading about 270 kilograms of cargo for return to Earth. The spacecraft will then undock for a touchdown, with White Sands Area Harbor in New Mexico the first touchdown website.

A profitable OFT-2 mission would permit Boeing to press forward with the Crew Flight Check, the primary flight of the spacecraft to hold astronauts. That would occur as quickly as the tip of the yr, though NASA officers have mentioned in prelaunch briefing that the schedule will rely each on resolving any points discovered throughout OFT-2 and the schedule of station actions.

“We’ll study. We’re going to take this one step at a time,” Kathy Lueders, NASA affiliate administrator for house operations, mentioned at a Could 18 briefing right here. “We’re going to make use of this studying for us to then be capable to fly our crews.”

The launch of this mission, known as Orbital Flight Check (OFT) 2, comes nearly precisely 29 months after the launch of one other Starliner spacecraft on the unique OFT mission. An issue with the spacecraft’s mission occasions timer induced issues nearly instantly after spacecraft separation, forcing NASA and Boeing to cancel the deliberate docking with the station and land simply two days later.

NASA later revealed that engineers discovered an issue with the spacecraft software program whereas it was in orbit that might have induced the service module, designed to be jettisoned simply earlier than reentry, to bump again into the crew capsule. They developed a software program patch that was put in simply hours earlier than reentry, however the incident prompted a broader evaluate of the spacecraft’s software program.

Boeing took a $410 million cost towards its earnings in early 2020 to cowl the price of addressing the issues discovered throughout OFT and to carry out a second check flight. That mission was set to launch in August 2021, however scrubbed simply hours earlier than launch when propellant valves within the service module did not open. Engineers discovered the valves had corroded shut, prompting a months-long delay.

Boeing later concluded that the valves corroded when nitrogen tetroxide oxidizer seeped by the Teflon seals within the valves and reacted with ambient moisture, creating nitric acid. The corporate took a number of near-term steps to stop the issue from reoccurring, together with biking the valves repeatedly and purging the valves with nitrogen gasoline to maintain out moisture. The corporate is contemplating a long-term redesign of the valve.

The delays have been expensive to Boeing. Along with the $410 million cost it took in 2020, the corporate took a further $185 million cost in October 2021 due to the extra work wanted to get OFT-2 launched. Whereas Boeing can be providing Starliner commercially, it has not introduced any agency offers past its NASA contract.

“We’re targeted at the beginning on getting safely again to flight and assembly our commitments to NASA, to our buyer, and having the ability to carry this functionality to NASA,” Michelle Parker, vice chairman and deputy common supervisor of house and launch at Boeing, mentioned in a Could 3 briefing when requested concerning the enterprise case for Starliner.

She added the corporate had different prospects, notably Orbital Reef, the business house station idea being developed with Blue Origin and Sierra Area because the lead companions. Boeing is taking part within the venture, partially by providing Starliner for transporting crews to and from the station. “We count on there might be extra alternatives sooner or later.”

“We’re dedicated to this system,” she mentioned. “Right now, we’re actually targeted on getting again to flight safely.”

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