Boeing still hopes for August Starliner launch

August 10, 2021
The Boeing Starliner. Photo: Boeing

Boeing is still hoping for an August launch of its CST-100 Starliner spacecraft as it works to restore functionality to 13 valves that failed to work as designed last week.

The spacecraft was returned to the Vertical Integration Facility at Space Launch Complex 41 at Cape Canaveral after propulsion system valves unexpectedly indicated they were in the closed position during the launch countdown on August 3.

The precautionary check of the spacecraft prior to the crewless launch was made after a storm swept through the area.

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Engineers got seven of the valves operating as designed over the weekend and Boeing said Monday it was working on the remaining valves.

“Boeing has completed physical inspections and chemical sampling on the exterior of a number of the affected valves, which indicated no signs of damage or external corrosion,’’ the company said on its website.

“Test teams are now applying mechanical, electrical and thermal techniques to prompt the valves open. Seven of the 13 valves are now operating as designed, with inspection and remediation of the remaining affected valves to be performed in the days ahead.

“Boeing is working a systematic plan to open the affected valves, demonstrate repeatable system performance, and verify the root cause of the issue before returning Starliner to the launchpad for its Orbital Flight Test-2 mission.”

The company said it was assessing multiple launch opportunities in August and it would work with NASA and the United Launch Alliance to confirm those dates when the spacecraft was ready.

The launch, intended as a test run for a crewed flight, had already been delayed after a problem with a Russian module affected the stability of the space station.

Boeing is competing with Elon Musk’s SpaceX to deliver crews to the international space station but has suffered a series of setbacks, including problems during the December 2019 maiden launch that left it unable to dock with the ISS.

SpaceX has launched three crewed missions to the orbital outpost and is expected to launch another later this year.